Boomers welcome gold medal pressure
AUSTRALIAN men's basketball coach Andrej Lemanis says the Boomers welcome the extra expectation that comes with being heavy gold medal favourites at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast next month.
The 12-strong squads for the Australian men's and women's teams were released on Wednesday with both the Boomers and Opals in the box seat to salute on home pine.
The last time basketball was played at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006, both Australian sides collected gold.
Given the quality of the Australian squads, nothing is expected to change on the Gold Coast with preliminary pool matches to be played in Townsville and Cairns before the medal rounds on the tourist strip.
New Zealand and Canada present the biggest threat to a homegrown gold rush.
Elizabeth Cambage headlines the Opals squad that includes WNBL championship-winning Townsville Fire star Cayla George, London Olympian Jenna O'Hea and veteran Belinda Snell who was part of the Australian side that won Commonwealth gold in 2006.
The Boomers squad is entirely made up of NBL players with the Australians in the NBA and Europe unavailable due to club commitments.
Across last year's FIBA Asia Cup and the first round of the World Cup qualifiers, the Australian-based Boomers have a win-loss record of 10-0 with an average winning margin of 27.1 points.
Rio Olympians Chris Goulding and Damian Martin will be joined by the likes of Cairns captain Cam Gliddon and Brisbane sharpshooter Daniel Kickert in the settled squad with veteran swingman Brad Newley the sole survivor from the 2006 success in Melbourne.
Sydney Kings guard and Rio Olympian Kevin Lisch withdrew from selection due to impending ankle surgery.
Lemanis said the favourite tag had to be embraced, not ignored.
"It means we go in with a good level of confidence but it doesn't change anything in terms of how we prepare,'' Lemanis said.
"We will still need to focus on us and be the best team we can be.
"Everyone is expecting us to win and I'm happy to be going in with a good team with good players. It's better than people expecting us to win and having a team that isn't quite as talented.
"So we are in a good position.''
A large chunk of the men's squad has been together since the Asia Cup and Lemanis said the continuity and consistency with the line-up would be a strength for the Boomers.
"Part of our strategy with the new FIBA qualifying games has been
trying to maintain a group through the course of the campaign as best we can because you don't have a lot of time to prepare before each window,'' he said.
"You want to have some semblance of offensive and defensive understanding and structure when you are building a group.
"The Commonwealth Games is a great opportunity for us. We get three weeks together, will play some quality games and hopefully have some success along the way.''