REGENSBURG (David Hein’s Eye on the Future) - Dante Exum must have liked the feeling of playing on the world stage. The up-and-coming Australian superstar teamed up with two of his teammates from this summer’s FIBA U17 World Championship to sweep New Zealand 3-0 at the FIBA Oceania U18 Championship to clinch a berth for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship.
New Zealand were hosting the games in Porirua, but they could not slow the Australians, who booked 85-64, 95-70 and 93-60 victories to continue their dominance over the Kiwis.
And it was Exum who led the attack for the Emus. The hero of the silver medal-winning Australia team at the U17 World Championship in Lithuania, averaged 14.3 points, 6 assists, 4.7 assists and 3 steals in last week's three-game series.
Exum set the tone in the first game with 17 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals. The East Melbourne native added 16 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals in the second game before letting his teammates do more of the work in the final game, picking up 10 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals.
Exum showed off the same versatility that earned him a spot on the All-Tournament Team in Kaunas back in July and makes him a huge prospect in the game and a much sought-after player for colleges in the United States as he has expressed his desire to play collegiately when he’s done with his schooling in Australia.
But Australia’s 1995-born generation is much more than just Exum, as the U17 Worlds silver medal and the dominating sweep over New Zealand show.
Nicholas Duncan, Australia’s fundamentally solid power forward, averaged 10 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1.7 steals. He showed that he can do what’s needed from him – and that at a high level. He scored 15 points in Game Two and he collected 9 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 steals and 2 assists in Game Three.
Floor general and outside shooter Mirko Djeric meanwhile averaged 9.3 points, 4.3 assists and 1.3 steals.
A note to remember is that all three Exum, Duncan and Djeric were 17 playing in the U18 tournament against New Zealand.
Australia’s top 1994-born player at the games was power forward Dane Pineau, who averaged 14 points, 6.7 rebounds and had a double-double in the first game. Pineau will be continuing the steady pipeline of Australians to Saint Mary’s College in 2013. He will follow Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Ben Allen and Daniel Kickert.
Look for that quartet of young Australians – led by Exum – to give a strong challenge next summer at the 2013 U19 World Championship, when Exum finally gets a chance to return to the world stage.