Newcastle Hunters get shot at glory with Boomers

Ben Simmons, Australian basketballer who is the number 1 player in US high school basketball. 4 June 2014. (Box Hill Senior Secondary College head coach Kevin Goorjian)The Age Sport. Photo:Eddie Jim.FORMER Newcastle Hunters juniors Damian Martin and Ben Simmons have been included in the 17-man Australian Boomers squad for the final selection trials before the FIBA World Cup in Spain starting next month.

Gloucester-born Martin and Melbourne-born Simmons both represented the Hunters and Lake Macquarie Lightning as boys before pursuing their careers outside the region.

Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis will conduct a training camp at the Basketball Australia national centre of excellence in Canberra from July 23 to 29 to trim the squad to the final 12.

The Boomers will then leave for Europe for warm-up games to fine-tune their preparation for their World Cup opener against Slovenia on Sunday, August 31.

The tournament, formerly known as the world championships, will tip off on August 30 and conclude on September 14.

Simmons, who was in Las Vegas this month at the LeBron James skills camp for America’s top high school players, is being touted as a likely No.1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

He will be joined in Boomers camp by friend Dante Exum, who was drafted three weeks ago by the Utah Jazz and is representing them in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

Martin represented Australia at the 2010 world championships and was the last player cut for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The 29-year-old guard captained Perth Wildcats to a record sixth National Basketball League title in April and collected his fourth straight NBL defensive player of the year award.

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Simmons, who will turn 18 on Sunday, and Exum, who turned 19 three days ago, made their Boomers debuts in the Oceania qualifying series against New Zealand last year.

Injury has forced both championship-winning San Antonio Spurs star Patty Mills and the Golden State Warriors’ Andrew Bogut out of the World Cup.

Mills had shoulder surgery a fortnight ago and is not expected back until next year.

Bogut, who has been dogged by injury the past few years, announced this month that he would not be available for Australia’s campaign.

Lemanis named four NBA players, Exum, Mills’s San Antonio teammate Aron Baynes, Cleveland Cavaliers’ Matthew Dellavedova and Chicago Bulls draftee Cameron Bairstow, in his preliminary squad.

“I’m very pleased with the group of players we have coming into camp. We have a good mix of experience and youth and I’m looking forward to seeing it all come together,” Lemanis said.

“I know that all of us still feel disappointed for Patty and wish him all the best in his recovery, but as a group there is still belief and confidence that we will perform well at the World Cup.”

Rising stars Chris Goulding and Brock Motum, who are both in action at this week’s NBA Summer League, were included.

Lemanis also named six players from Australia’s NBL competition and a handful of European-based players.

“We now not only have players in the world’s best seasonal competitions, but they are playing significant roles with their teams,” he said. “This is yet another reflection of our strength as a basketball nation and the development our players receive through our high-performance pathways.”