Aussie Ball is Back

Aussie Ball is Back
Jan 25, 2005, 03:31 pm
It is a game that every Australian basketball fan remembers vividly, yet it is a mere footnote in the history of basketball. Maybe it was just a pre-Barcelona Olympics warm-up game between the USA and Australia, but someone forget to tell plucky Australian guard Shane Heal. The Hammer," as he is affectionately known, helped put Australian basketball on the map by knocking down eight three pointers against the much-hyped US team. The eight treys isn't what made Heal's legend; it was when, after sinking one of these bombs, US forward Charles Barkley charged Heal, sending him crashing into the first row. No foul was called as Sir Charles turned and ran down the floor. But no sooner had Barkley turned when Heal was in his face trash talking one of the greatest players of his generation, bumping chests and calling Barkley every name under the sun. A six-foot point guard challenging Charles was unheard of, but so too was Australian basketball up until that moment (well almost).

The following two years were watershed years for Australian basketball. The national team finished fourth in the subsequent Olympics and the following year saw Heal and Mark Bradtke join center Luc Longley in the NBA. Then in 1997, the Australian under-23 national team won the world championship and The Land Down Under was the flavour of the month on the world stage. The 1997 NBA Draft featured no less than four players drafted out of Australia -- Chris Anstey at 18, CJ Bruton at 53, Paul Rogers at 54 and Ben Pepper at 56. This equalled the amount of players drafted from the whole continent of Europe. Remember Australia only has a population of 20 million people. About this time Simon Dwight was also offered a contract from the then Charlotte Hornets, which he turned down. With all this attention, and potential, one would have been wise to predict a mass influx of Australians into the NBA; how wrong one would have been.

Since that time, only David Andersen has been drafted (pick #37 in 2002), and sharp-shooter Andrew Gaze warmed a seat on the bench for San Antonio during their 1999 championship season. It is fair to say Australian basketball has been left on the runway over the last few years.

Now almost a decade later, Australia has once again been cleared for take-off.

While Utah big man Andrew Bogut may be flying the plane, his fellow countrymen are certainly no baggage handlers. Center Luke Schenscher has come back from last season stronger and will be a major factor in how far Georgia Tech will go this year.

The Big 12's fifth leading scorer, the freshman Aaron Bruce, also hails from Australia and is currently top 10 in no less than five statistical categories in his conference. Daniel Kickert, who was just named the Mid-Season Mid-Major MVP by, is currently playing for the St. Mary's Gaels and is Australian born and bred. All these guys have one thing in common, they spent considerable time at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).

The AIS is funded by the Government and brings the top athletes in all sports together to the one facility. Here they live, eat and sleep their chosen sport whilst living with like-minded athletes. The AIS has produced many top Australian basketballers, including Shane Heal and Lauren Jackson among others. Tony Rozone, International Scout for the Detroit Pistons had this to say about the Institue: "That's the way to go. That's why the Australians have been pretty successful -- they have (a basketball) institute where they take the best young players and put them in there and develop them when they're young and then disperse them to the pro teams."

There is also another AIS ‘product' who is quickly becoming the basketball world's worst kept secret.
Brad Newley has burst onto the Australian basketball stage, whipping up a storm of excitement on his way. The rookie from South Australia has begun his professional playing career with the Townsville Crocodiles in the National Basketball League (NBL) and has all but wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award. Averaging 15 points per game on 52% shooting in under 20 minutes per outing is exceptional in anyone's book. What makes Brad truly exciting, and probably the most electrifying guard to come out of Australia since Shane Heal, is the way he finishes; be it solo or over defenders or on the break, Newley finishes with authority. In 2003, in an exhibition game against Brigham Young University, featuring highly regarded Raphael Araujo, Newley finished with 21 points.
Just this year, Newley was voted a starter in the NBL All-Star game, which is amazing considering he doesn't even start for his own team; obviously, the NBL fans know a good thing when they see it. Just this week, the LA Clippers sent out a scout to check on Newley and the scorer put on a show. Against the hottest team in the league, the Andrew Gaze-led Melbourne Tigers, Newley exploded for 26 points on 9/16 shooting, including 4/7 from beyond the arc. He also added six assists and four rebounds in only 27 minutes. But that was just the appetizer.


A couple of nights later, the All-Star game was underway, with the Clippers scout in the stands. It wasn't long before Newley put his stamp on the game, flushing an alley-oop on the very first possesion. Newley then went on to score 35 points on 14/26 shooting, including 5/10 from beyond the arc, in what will go down as one of the all-time great All-Star perfomances. He was duly awarded the MVP of the game and it is safe to say the Clippers scout was smiling.

Newley said he told Andrew Bogut on the phone about the scout, and, "Boges said, 'A scout? -- I had 22 at my last game'." That puts things into perspective for Newley, whose goals are to make the national team for the Beijing Olympics and then see what happens.


Born in February 1985, Brad Newley stands 6'5 and weighs 181 pounds. He has a very wiry frame which could carry an extra 20-25 pounds without much noticeable difference. He is not very muscular and looks like your average skinny 18 year old; he has a similar body shape to Dorrell Wright (though not as long, obviously). Brad Newley is currently a rookie in the National Basketball League in Australia, where he averages about 20 minutes per game. He plays behind one of the most pure shooters in the country and a member of the National team, John Rillie, and also one of the best imports to play in Australia, Robert Rose. This is the only reason he doesn't play more minutes, but with Rob Rose retiring at the end of the season, Newley is set to become a starter next season. Just last week, Rose was injured and Newley stepped in and played 39 minutes with great results; 26 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, on 10/20 shooting. Newley is primarily a shooting guard with a shoot-first mentality.


Newley's offensive ability is nothing short of stunning. A consistent shooter from anywhere on the court, it is his creativity that sets him apart. He can get his shot off against most defenders and does not hesitate to pull the trigger from downtown, which makes him extremely difficult to defend. He attacks the rim whenever he can and does not settle for the finger-roll. Newley finishes with authority and does not lack confidence. The guard possesses a great change of speeds and uses this to his advantage when turning the corner against a defender on his way to a pull up jumpshot or a rim-rattling jam. His number one advantage in the Australian League is his athleticism and he exploits this at every opportunity. Newley is a very good shooter and is averaging 36% from beyond the arc. He does have NBA range on his shot and releases the ball relatively high, making it tough to defend, especially with his quick release. He is as comfortable shooting off the dribble as he is spotting up and will shoot from anywhere. Newley shoots 52% from the field overall, but only 67% from the free throw line. The only thing I can put it down to is perhaps his concentration at the line is not where it should be, because his form is sound; or maybe it's just one of those rookie things.

Newley's on-court demeanor is very business-like and he is most competitive. His teammates seem to enjoy his company and he was the toast of the All-Star game with all the veterans having great things to say about him. He is the sort of guy who won't quit until he has won or reached his goal. This is why I believe he can become a decent defender. He is able to make the tough pass in traffic when the double team approaches, but doesn't always make the right decision.


Defense. Newley is only an average on-ball defender who doesn't get too many steals considering his quickness. This is an area of his game he knows needs improvement, and which he has stated he is out to work on. Newley doesn't play the passing lanes anywhere near as well as he should and sometimes gets lost against teams who move the ball a lot. Newley has all the tools to be a good to very good defender, but needs to put in the work sooner rather than later. One of Newley's current teammates, John Rillie, who attended Gonzaga University, said just recently that Brad didn't know how to spell pass before he arrived in the NBL. He is very much a shoot-first player, but he does have decent court vision. He just doesn't use it very often. His assist numbers have gradually gone up as teams have started gearing their defense toward him, which shows he is making the adjustments to continue to be successful. His coach has spoken openly about Newley's need to improve his passing and has just recently been praising him for making the effort to improve this area of his game.

Offensively, Newley should be fairly easy to scout by the opposition, as when he goes left, he is pulling up. When he goes right, he usually keeps going to the hole. This is mainly due to the fact he doesn't have a great left handed dribble in pressure situations. With this in mind though, he still gets what he wants on offense. Newley does seem to need the ball to be effective, but this can be put down to him having been the dominant scorer on weak junior teams; he will understand the importance of this as his career progresses.

Newley forces the issue at times when driving to the hoop. In the under-20 nationals, he picked up three fouls in a matter of minutes due to frustration. We have seen less of that so far in his NBL career. Defense is his major deficiency, but he has all the tools to be a good defender. On most of his junior teams, Newley was the number one scorer and coaches didn't force the issue with regards to his defense. Now that he has arrived in the NBL, he has been told from all corners that his defense must improve; especially if he has designs on the NBA.


Newley is an extremely confident young man who knows what he is capable of. He will not back down from anyone and relishes a challenge. He will be a part of the next national team without a doubt. With an NBA scout coming to watch him, we must view him as a potential NBA player. The San Antonio Spurs have also requested tapes of Newley and his coach said the Clippers scout suggested he would be drafted in 2006. I do have reservations about his ability to play in the NBA; starting with his body. He needs to bulk up, as he is currently slight for NBL standards, let alone NBA standards. I don't think Newley can play as a combo guard, as he isn't a natural passer and is only now just realising what passing can do for his own game. He is young, which is in his favour, and to be honest, I think everyone was very surprised to see the scout out here; then again, most things Newley has done this year have surprised us. If he continues to improve at this rate, he could very well make it in the NBA. I would predict the next World Championships will be his coming out party, playing alongside Bogut. There was talk that a few major colleges made him offers, but he rejected them, as he wasn't too interested in spending any more time studying. If this is his mindset, then we could see Newley playing in Europe within three years, if the NBA doesn't come knocking first.

So, between Bogut, Schenscher, Kickert, Andersen and Newley, the Australian flavour could be back in favour very soon.

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