Ben Simmons has given the Boomers’ Olympic medal hopes a boost, declaring he intends to play in Tokyo this year after being included in a full-strength 24-man Games squad.
The Melbourne-born NBA All-Star and his Philadelphia 76ers’ teammate Matisse Thybulle, a dual citizen who spent seven years in Australia as a child, were the notable additions to a squad named on Wednesday that features 12 players with NBA experience.
If they go ahead, the Olympics will follow immediately after July’s NBA Finals, creating a possible hurdle for Simmons if the 76ers convert their strong early-season form into a deep play-offs run.
But, after a late withdrawal from the Boomers’ 2019 World Cup campaign, Simmons said he intended to wear the green and gold as Australia’s men target a first international tournament medal.
“It would be an amazing honour to play for my country,” Simmons said.
“I know things are uncertain right now but I’ve been in touch with coach Goorjian and we’re hopeful I can join the Boomers.”
NBA stalwarts Joe Ingles and Patty Mills are slated to play in their fourth Olympics while Aron Baynes has established himself as one of the NBA’s prominent centres in recent years and starred at the last World Cup.
Matthew Dellavedova, Ryan Broekhoff, Chris Goulding and Brock Motum were also part of the Boomers’ Olympic campaign in 2016, while top NBA draft prospect Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers) has been included as one of nine NBL players.
Dallas Mavericks draftee Josh Green, G-League centres Will McDowell-White and Will Magnay and Duop Reath, a South Sudanese-born Australian playing in Serbia, have been named in their first Boomers squad.
Jonah Bolden, an 11th hour withdrawal from the World Cup team, has not been named after missing out on an NBA contract this season while triple-Olympian Andrew Bogut has retired.
Goorjian, who returned from a long stint in China to coach the NBL’s Hawks this year, has replaced Brett Brown after he was unable to commit when he lost his role as head coach of Simmons’ 76ers.
But Goorjian felt the 24-year-old was still invested in the national program after the pair shared a “really enjoyable conversation”.
“He was just like the others, not a whimper; it was ‘I’m in, I’m looking forward to it and want to be a part of this’,” he said of Simmons.
“That leadership team, they want that gold medal and to get that gold medal how important is he? He’s huge.
“His commitment gives this whole thing a lift and it’s great for the country; everyone follows him and this is a long-time situation, he’s going to be one of the leaders for the future.
“When I hung that phone up I felt real good.”
Boomers Olympic squad
Deng Adel, Aron Baynes, Ryan Broekhoff, Xavier Cooks, Mitch Creek, Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum, Josh Giddey, Chris Goulding, Josh Green, Isaac Humphries, Joe Ingles, Nick Kay, Jock Landale, Mitch McCarron, Will McDowell-White, Will Magnay, Thon Maker, Patty Mills, Brock Motum, Mitch Norton, Duop Reath, Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle.