New look Boomers finding bearings as China looms

With the Boomers minutes from wrapping up their final practice before Thursday night's matchup with China, team captain Matthew Dellavedova halted the team running through sets.

The veteran guard directed a detailed question regarding defensive positioning based on the opposition big man to head coach Brian Goorjian.

Goorjian paused for a few seconds.

"That's a great question," Goorjian enthusiastically responded before diving straight into the answer.

With only five days to prepare for the FIBA World Cup Qualifying window, there has been questions a plenty, with "international learning" a key phrase repeatedly used among the group and in particular from Goorjian, who is no stranger to having limited preparation in a national team set up.

"It's really important putting pressure on them about being an international learner. It's totally different from a club situation where you have months and months to prepare. Here's the system, here's a couple sets and we're going to come back in the afternoon, and you need to know it," Goorjian said.

"The philosophy of coaching in this day and age, it's much more important to be positive than negative. Right now, there's so much teaching in a short period of time so I try to give three things, you try to say two positives before you throw the negative."

During another stoppage, Goorjian told the group how well they had progressed despite what might feel like negative commentary from the coaching staff throughout the training camp crash course.

"It doesn't feel like there's been negativity at all, he's coaching hard, and he understands the situation," Jack White said.

"We aren't going to be able to cover all the fine details in a short period of time, but he's been great. He's super passionate about the Boomers, the program, having him as the head of the snake has been a pleasure."

Goorjian admits the question mark lies on the offensive side of the ball for this iteration of the Boomers. If the game becomes a half court battle, there is no Patty Mills to bail out the team as he has so many times in the green and gold. There's no Chris Goulding to hit nothing but net over two defenders from behind the arc. Instead, the group is made up of defensive minded athletes who have excelled in their roles with their NBL clubs.

"That's the challenge. Consistently, the perimeter shot and our ability to score," Goorjian conceded.

"I'm hoping we can score before the defence is set. Defending China, keeping them off the glass, and they send everyone to the glass, if we can rebound and run it will loosen these guys up. If they are set, they're big, it's going to come down to how we shoot from the perimeter and that's unknown. We get an opportunity over three games to see how these guys go."

If the games do turn into a halfcourt grind, big man Thon Maker is hardly concerned, drawing a big smile with the mere mention of ball movement becoming a key for the squad.

"The ball movement is probably what I've missed the most. Being an overseas athlete, playing in America, you forget how beautiful it is to move the ball," Maker explained.

"I take pride in passing the ball. I say I'm probably the most underrated passer in the world. Some people laugh at that, but I believe it.

"We don't care who scores, we just move the ball, that's international basketball. Offensively we're going to be good, we hang our hat on defence, get out on transition and Goorj has just said keep it simple."

Maker is the lone player in the squad that didn't suit up in the NBL this season, with his expected individual matchup against Zhou Qi set to shape Thursday and Sunday's games against China.

Qi, who stands 7'1", is well accustomed to John Cain Arena after playing NBL22 with South East Melbourne Phoenix.

"I've seen enough. Thon is tremendous defensively, he's a great rebounder. They've got bigs and he's going to be a real important piece on both ends of the floor. He's a great defender and rebounder," Goorjian said.

As practice concluded, Dellavedova was as usual, encouraging and instructing, understanding tip-off was just over 24 hours away on that very court.

There is a genuine unknown about how this version of the Boomers will respond after just five days of international learning, though White believes the team has benefitted from the presence of Dellavedova.

The lone returnee from the Bronze Medal winning squad in Tokyo, Dellavedova's eagerness to ask questions, give advice and be a sounding board for the rest of the squad has proven a calming presence ahead of the window.

"He's been unreal. He's such a great extension of Goorj on the court. He's had a significant amount of experience with the Boomers, he's been a big part of the culture that is now here," White said.

"He understands what it takes to be a Boomer. Just seeing his pride, it rubs off on guys. He's so thrilled to be here and wants to represent Australia the right way. He's the ultimate professional, he's the ultimate player when it comes to represent your country.

"We all understand it's a short preparation and our level of learning has to be at an international level. It's nice to get our final preparations today before the game tomorrow."

The FIBA World Cup Qualifying window tips off on Thursday night from John Cain Arena in Melbourne. Coverage starts at 630pm live on ESPN and Kayo.