25/07/2014
Paulo Kennedy's view from Downunder

Who's powering the Boomers forward

MELBOURNE (Paulo Kennedy View from Downunder) - Several months ago, as Lucas Walker continued to impress in the NBL, I asked Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis his thoughts about 'Waxy' as an international prospect.

"He's certainly an international-calibre athlete, he's unbelievable isn't he?" Lemanis said.

"His individual game continues to improve and it's something you can't ignore, just because he's world class as far as athleticism is concerned."

As Walker continued to provide the grunt for the Melbourne Tigers with his outstanding rebounding, defence, improved three-point shooting and ability to do the unpredictable, Lemanis began to seriously look at where he sat in the pecking order of Australia's mobile 3-4 men.

"I think he just needs a bit more poise," he said.

"With Waxy it's just about the comprehension of the game, understanding the style of play and how to fit best in the team environment, because he certainly has the physical attributes to do it."

But come the end of the NBL season, when Lemanis was preparing for his first camp of the winter and a series against China, a phone call rocketed Walker from an intriguing proposition to a genuine prospect.

Anthony Petrie, who had made a strong claim for the 3-4 position in the 2013 international season, had courageously played through injury as he helped lead the Adelaide 36ers into the NBL decider.

But his body had taken too much, and when the time came to commit he had to tell Lemanis he just couldn't be a part of the FIBA Basketball World Cup campaign.

Now while the withdrawals of some bigger name players - namely Andrew Bogut and Patty Mills - have attracted the headlines, there are plenty of talented players who will fill those roles.

Aron Baynes, David Andersen, Nate Jawai and Cam Bairstow will get the job done in the traditional frontcourt positions.

Chris Goulding, Matt Dellavedova, Joe Ingles, Brad Newley, Damian Martin and Adam Gibson are all very capable in the perimeter spots, while a young man named Dante Exum might provide some x-factor.

But the position Petrie was a contender to fill is arguably the most important in Lemanis' disruptive defensive schemes, yet it doesn't possess the same depth as the spots Bogut and Mills vacated.

Add to that the withdrawal of David Barlow through injury and suddenly the ranks were thinning.

That's where the 2.03m Walker stepped into the green and gold, working his way into the series against China and playing with such energy that he gave Lemanis no choice but to pick him for this week's final camp in Canberra.

Word from the nation's capital suggests the 29-year-old has excelled in elite company and put himself into contention for a ticket to Spain.

While Mark Worthington appears to be the leading contender for that spot, Wortho has made his mark for many years as an impact player for the Boomers, and seems unlikely to play major minutes.

So who else in the line-up can disrupt and recover from the power forward spot?

"That's a good question," Lemanis said earlier in the year.

"It's something we've identified because it is a bit of a specialist role. It's one of those things where we might need to make some adjustments on the fly depending on the skillset of the guys."

Lemanis made it clear it won't just be the Mika Vukona-type players who will be filling the role the Kiwi superstar played so well for him with the New Zealand Breakers.

"There's someone like Baynesy, we’re very interested in seeing how he goes in the four-spot, obviously without the three-point shooting capability, but I think some of those other things he can do," he said.

"Then you've got the likes of Brock Motum, who's playing the four at Bologna."

At times, it will also be a case of business as usual with a traditional line-up.

"You've still got David Andersen and his ability, is he someone who's better suited the four-spot?" Lemanis asked.

"He can certainly spread the floor from the four-spot and defensively he's happy and prepared to do some of those disruption things we're asking.

"Disruption is something you can do different ways and you find different ways to do it based on who you have. It can change when you start subbing as well."

At the end of the day though, the Boomers need a point of difference.

With players like Ingles, Newley, Goulding, Martin and Exum, this team can be very dangerous in the open court.

In reality, most of the Australian roster will be more comfortable playing an aggressive style than settling for traditional line-ups and walk-up contests.

As we've seen in the NBL, that begins with a power forward who can make life difficult for a range of opposition players - by trapping or switching ball-screens - and make up for his lack of height with mobility, speed, rebounding and energy.

While he's still an outsider to make the final 12 when it is announced on Monday, those are boxes Walker ticks every time he walks onto a court.

"That's the sort of thing he can do with his athleticism," Lemanis said.

Paulo Kennedy

FIBA

FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.

Paulo Kennedy

Paulo Kennedy

Paulo has joined our team of columnists with a weekly column called 'The View from Downunder', where he looks at pertinent issues in the world of basketball from an Oceania perspective, perhaps different to the predominant points of view from columnists in North America and Europe.

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