Breaking down the Boomers' eight-match winning run

A 30-point win over Iran on Monday night ensured an undefeated FIBA winter for the Boomers, with preparations right on track for next year's World Cup.

Australia collected five consecutive wins across two World Cup qualifying windows and claimed the Asia Cup in between, all while unearthing a host of rising stars in the national team program.

Boomers head coach Brian Goorjian manned the sidelines for three qualifiers in Melbourne, before Perth Wildcats assistant Mike Kelly steered the ship the rest of the way.

Kelly caught up with ESPN on Tuesday afternoon to recap the Boomers success during the period.

Carrying on from Goorj and introduction to the Boomers program

Named the Coach of the Year in NBL20 with the Cairns Taipans, Kelly carries an impressive coaching resume, though his first taste of the Boomers program was an eye-opening experience.

"First of all, I just think it's the whole vibe of the Boomers and the spirit of the Boomers. As I was coming in, it was my first time ever being a part of the Boomers, the generosity of everyone to help each other and always perform at their highest level. It's high expectation but also a generosity of caring and pushing each other which is pretty cool," Kelly said.

While Goorjian wasn't with the group for the Asia Cup or the latest World Cup window, his fingerprints remained all over the program, with Kelly absorbing as much intel as he could around guiding an ever-changing roster on limited preparation.

"There's definitely an art to it. Watching Goorj go to work in Melbourne in zoom calls and all the prep. It was all the coaches, but Goorj orchestrated everything and I learned a lot from that, seeing how he was able to put everything together and delegate to the coaches and leaders in the playing group.

"It's still his template. As we were going from the Melbourne games and went into the Asia Cup, we still carry on with his structures. He was watching, even after the Asia Cup we spoke, and he noticed the tweaks and encouraged along the way. It was basically the same structure, but we added things here and there because of different players and capabilities."

Opening doors for the World Cup and Paris Olympics

Prior to the Melbourne window, Goorjian was outspoken about the roster for next year's World Cup, insisting there would be roster spots available for those who could grasp their opportunities in the coming months.

"I personally never talked to guys about that, but I think that's kind of how this whole thing works. If you come in and do really well you put yourself in the picture to do it again and try out for the World Cup," Kelly said.

"I think a number of guys have put themselves in that conversation. We got a chance to look at some of the guys who hadn't been with the Boomers before or briefly and then some really good young players. I think it's the natural progression, you don't have to tell guys, they just know that."

Among the raft of young talent showing out in recent months, it was a veteran of the squad that stood out to Kelly.

"Mitch McCarron had an amazing season with the Boomers. Everybody knows he can play, but for him to do it consistently at a high level internationally and also lead the group, he was high level on and off the court.

"Other guys that jumped out, you had Tyrese Proctor, William McDowell-White was really good, Sam Froling was a picture of consistency through the whole thing and he's 22 years old. Luke Travers was pretty special after he got back from Summer League, Dejan Vasiljevic was amazing in these games that he got to play in. I could probably go on and on."

The growth of Luke Travers

Playing under a significant spotlight in recent years, Travers continued to shine in the NBL before ultimately being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2022 NBA draft. Set to suit up with the Wildcats in NBL23, Kelly feels he is in prime position to continue to build on his path to the NBA.

"I think he felt some of the expectations last year with the draft coming up for him. I think it's really great that it's a weight off his shoulders, he just seems to be playing a little more freely and he's focused on enjoying basketball and getting better.

"I think he's in the gym more now since he got back from Summer League, it's just part of what he does as opposed to dragging himself in, he enjoys the work. He didn't start these last two games (with the Boomers), but he had a great attitude towards playing. He's just enjoying his basketball and trying to get better so now we'll get back to Perth, get back in the weight room and help him feel good about his body."

Routinely filling the box score at the NBL level, Travers hosted a block party in Bendigo against Iran, swatting six shots in just 16 minutes of playing time, with his defensive ability the standout area of growth according to Kelly.

"Defensively is where I think he has so much upside, he's long, he can get a piece of the ball, he had six blocks last night. I think the next step for him is defending with some real physicality and really making the offensive player feel him and instil a bit of fear in them.

"I think right now his strength is playing off and getting deflections, but I think he can be an elite defender if he plays with a little more physicality and I think he's starting to do that. I'm so excited for him to just keep getting better, he's shooting the ball really well right now, he's attacking the basket, he's an elite cutter and I just think defensively is where you'll see a lot of his improvement."

Kelly's coaching ambition

Set to enter his second season on the bench with the Wildcats, Kelly is enjoying life in the West, while also admitting the itch to once again run his own program is strong, with this latest Boomers run only emphasising those thoughts.

"I love my job right now, I'm really happy in Perth working with John Rillie. He's going to do an amazing job and I already know I'm going to love working with him because he's a good person and loves hoops.

"I would love to be a head coach; I feel that if you can run the show and get the opportunity it's great to lead a program. I've been really grateful for this opportunity that Goorj and Basketball Australia gave me to lead while he's not here, it's been incredible, but I would love to do it at the NBL or professional level again."

What's next for the Boomers

The Boomers now sit comfortably on top of Group F with an 8-0 record after four windows of World Cup qualification.

Two windows remain in November and February. The NBL will break for the November window, with the regular season complete before the final group games in February.

Given the proximity to the NBA season, it will once again be an NBL heavy squad on the road to the World Cup next August in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.