Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze says the NBL will be a major beneficiary of FIBA’s new World Cup qualifying system.
Under the new system, the Australian Boomers and New Zealand Tall Blacks will play Asia’s best nations during an expanded qualifying series over three years which will see a two-game international window every three months.
Should they both Oceania nations qualify for the 32-team 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, the highest finisher will win direct entry to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo along with the highest finishing Asian nation.
There remaining nations in the top 24 from all confederations will play off in last chance Olympic qualifying tournaments in 2020 to claim the last places.
Speaking on Wednesday at FIBA’s launch of the new format on the Gold Coast, Gaze spoke powerfully about his belief NBL players would gain much greater acknowledgement once people saw them playing for the Boomers.
“There are many, many players in the NBL who have the capacity to play in the NBA,” Gaze said.
“I think you will get to a point where coaches will then have to make a decision and say well this guy is in the NBA and he’s got this reputation but hang on I’ve seen this guy playing here [the NBL] and is there really that much difference?
“You develop the pool of talent to say that it is going to be very competitive for spots because you’ve got more people getting that international exposure.”
NBA players won’t be released for the windows which fall during their season which will likely see those players miss the November, February and June windows although players who sides are out of the playoffs may play in June.
NBL players are expected to make up the Boomers side for much of the year starting with the FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon in August 8-20 this year and into the first qualifying window this November.
The NBL will pause during the November and February windows since both the Boomers and Tall Blacks will take players from the league along with coaches Andrej Lemanis (Brisbane/Boomers) and Paul Henare (New Zealand Breakers/Tall Blacks).
NBL venues could also host games although Basketball Australia is still finalising where they will play the Boomers first three home games.
Henare said his side would face some “teething” issues as they adjusted to the new schedule but would benefit from more home games and a better chance at qualifying for the Olympic Games.
NCAA players are unlikely to be released by their schools during the college season but the Tall Blacks could call up their young guns for the windows outside the college season.
“There is going to be a teething and learning process in how this all works but I think on a worldwide level there will be some great exposure for New Zealand basketball,” Henare said.
“Purely from a Breakers point of view I see our Tall Blacks games in February where we play in China and then in Korea and managing that travel schedule and all we have to do leading up to and after that will be a test at that time of year.
“That will be an interesting one with where we hope to be at that time of year [in finals] in the NBL but this sort of schedule is not as daunting as sorting out a six to eight week schedule to get ready for an Olympic qualifying tournament.”
As coach of the Sydney Kings, Gaze acknowledged the new format could hurt NBL clubs who lost players to injury or had their best players fatigued but he said the bigger picture showed it would be a boon for the NBL.
The league will also get to further strengthen its ties into China, India and other Asian nations through the increased number of international games.
Kings stars Kevin Lisch and Brad Newley have told Gaze they are very keen to keep playing for the Boomers while Jason Cadee and Todd Blanchfield could also push for places.
“The biggest beneficiary of this as it goes through time is the domestic competition because you build the profiles up,” Gaze said.
“I want every single one of my players who have the chance to play at that level and represent their country, whatever it takes, I’m all in.
“I see the benefits for the Kings, there might be some hardship you have to endure for it but you have to look at the bigger picture – I want all my guys to aspire to that, I want to help to make that happen because from my own personal experiences I understand the joy and incredible honour and privilege that it is for an individual to have that experience.
“I also think it is going to help me as a coach for these players to broadening their games and learning.
“There are risks but the benefits to me greatly outweigh the risks.”
Australian Boomers first round qualifying draw (venues TBA)
November 24: Chinese Taipei v Australia
November 27: Australia v Japan
February 22, 2018: Australia v Phillipines
February 25: Australia v Chinese Taipei
June 29: Japan v Australia
July 2: Phillipines v Australia
New Zealand Tall Blacks first round qualifying draw (venues TBA)
November 23: New Zealand v Korea
November 26: Hong Kong v New Zealand
February 23, 2018: China v New Zealand
February 26: Korea v New Zealand
June 28: New Zealand v Hong Kong
July 1: New Zealand v China