Aron Baynes called into Boomers' basketball squad
MAREEBA'S Aron Baynes has been included in a 12-man Boomers squad for the Olympic qualifying tournament against arch rivals New Zealand, starting in Melbourne tonight.
The 208cm centre, who plays for German club EWE Baskets Oldenburg, was a star of the Boomers’ 2010 World Championship campaign and is considered a key figure in the set-up of Australian coach Brett Brown.
The Opals are also playing New Zealand in a best-of-three qualifying series for the right to play in London.
Both the Australian men’s and women’s teams have been shorn of stars for their matches against the Kiwis.
The Boomers go into their series without NBA hero Andrew Bogut and two-time Olympian David
The Opals are without their WNBA stars, including Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, Liz Cambage and Jenna O’Hea – and an injured three-time Olympian in Kristi Harrower.
New Zealand’s men have their go-to man, shooting guard Kirk Penney, ready to play.
And their preparation has been impressive, beating Russia to win a tournament in China and producing some solid results in a European tour.
With Australia having been ambushed by New Zealand teams in the past – most notably in the 2001 Trans-Tasman series and most recently in 2009 – Brown won’t even talk about Olympic preparations beyond this week.
"I want to take care of business now. That’s the message to our team. We can’t skip steps," Brown said.
"We have to expect a long, grinding-type series. There’s going to be game swings, it’s going to be a defensive grind."
Ominously, veteran New Zealand guard Mark Dickel rates the current Tall Blacks outfit the equal of any of the teams he has played on.
Missing direct passage to London puts the losers into a battle to make the top three in a worldwide repechage tournament scheduled for June next year. The Opals, who have won the past three Olympic silver medals, face a less daunting challenge against the Tall Ferns.
While missing several stars, they have size in their favour and the New Zealand women haven’t had the benefit of a long preparation like Australia – recently returned from a tour of China.
Boomers squad: David Barlow, Aron Baynes, Matthew Dellavedova, Adam Gibson, Joe Ingles, Aleks Maric, Damian Martin, Patrick Mills, Brad Newley, Matthew Nielsen, AJ Ogilvy, Mark Worthington.
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Boom talent: Aron Baynes will line up for the Boomers in an Olympic qualifier tonight.