In late July 2014, a group of elite Australian and New Zealand U19 basketball players gathered in Long Beach, California, just south of the beating heart of Los Angeles to play in the prestigious 2014 adidas Nations tournament. The concept behind the Nations tournament is to bring the best players from regions around the world (including Africa, Europe and Latin America), to play against the top four U.S. teams.
The invitation-only tour was supported by adidas and managed by Randy Livingston of LivOn Basketball. Randy was also Head Coach of the team. Assisting Randy in his coaching capacity were: Assistant Coaches Warren Rosen (AUS), Travis Russell (USA) and Kenny McFadden (NZ).
Although officially designated by adidas as “Team Asia Pacific,” behind the scenes we dubbed our posse of pro-potential players “Team ANZAC” as a tribute to the old diggers from both countries who fought shoulder to shoulder for a common goal.
Whereas most of the players had to fly across the Pacific Ocean to attend Nations, three of the Australian team members were already living and playing basketball in the U.S.A. at prep schools in Kansas and Florida. But even the boys who had longer flights showed little sign of jet lag as they hit the ground running a few days ahead of the tournament, to gain several crucial days of team training.
One Aussie who did not join our team was the 7′ phenom Thon Maker who was snapped up by the U.S. Team Lillard based on him playing at a U.S. prep school since leaving his Sydney home. (He has subsequently moved to Canada.) We were fortunate to catch up with Thon and chat about his ambitions. Playing for the Boomers ranked high on his list.
In addition to the players, several parents joined the tour, including Tad Dufelmeier Snr, the Freemans and even Tai Wynyard’s mother joined us, even though Tai had to withdraw from Team Asia Pacific at last minute due to being selected to play with the Tall Blacks. The Dufelmeiers had a particularly strong showing, with up to a dozen of their California-based family members attending, which significantly increased the volume of our cheer squad!
One of the many perks of attending Nations is the amazing pile of adidas products that is given to the players. They even gave the boys an extra bag plus baggage allowance to transport all the goodies home.
Once adidas Nations got fully underway there were plenty of activities to enjoy. In addition to basketball skills and conditioning, the boys were treated to a range of insightful talks about from some of the top basketball minds in the world. Topics ranged from how to deal with media, to nutrition, to motivational talks from current NBA players.
When they were not practicing, playing, eating or sleeping, the most popular hangout was the “Players Lounge” which had an assortment of drinks and snacks, video games and even a courtesy barber who was on hand to sharpen up the guys’s lines before they performed in front of a myriad of NBA scouts and various luminaries of the game.
Team Asia Pacific performed very solidly throughout the tournament, playing against some extremely strong teams including Team Canada and Team Howard (one of the U.S. teams). We just missed out on reaching the Grand Final match, which was held in a separate venue with ample seating for spectators. That game was also broadcast live on ESPN.
All the boys played great basketball against some fearsome opponents. Some individual performances worth noting are William McDowell-White, Matt Freeman and Callum Barker, who all stepped up their performances to truly international standard.