Ben Simmons will apppear in the World Cup and warm up games for Australia.
Ben Simmons will apppear in the World Cup and warm up games for Australia.

How Boomers reeled in their prize catch

Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis has lifted the lid on the collaborative approach that helped to secure Australia's first NBA All-Star Ben Simmons for this year's World Cup in China.

The basketball community celebrated on Wednesday when Simmons declared his allegiance to the green and gold via a 22-second video clip on Twitter.

"I'm going to be a Boomer. Stay tuned," Simmons said.

Simmons also posted a message on Chinese social media via his Weibo account saying, "I'm happy to say I'm looking forward to representing my country Australia in the upcoming FIBA World Cup in China."

Simmons' decision to commit to Australia for a major tournament has been years in the making.

He last donned the Boomers singlet as a 16-year-old against New Zealand in 2013.

Simmons didn't play at the Rio Olympics in 2016, and there were fears he would also sit out the 2019 World Cup due to multimillion dollar contract extension talks with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Despite these hurdles, the Melbourne-born point guard has decided to don the green and gold at the Cup in China in August and September.

He will also appear in warm-up games against Team USA and Canada in Melbourne and Perth.

According to Lemanis, Simmons' allegiance to the Boomers caps off years of effort from multiple figures within the Basketball Australia ranks.

From countless calls via assistant and three-time NBA champion Luc Longley to a concerted effort to improve the team's performance ranks, nothing has been left in the tank in a bid to secure Australia's best basketballer.

"Everybody is pulling in the right direction and trying to get to the one outcome," Lemanis told News Corp Australia.

"The professionalism of the game has grown and the players' expectations have grown, so we need to continue raise the bar as Basketball Australia to deliver on those expectations.

"But we are heading in the right direction and I think that is reflective of the fact that guys want to come back into the Boomers environment.

"It also shows what it means for the players to represent Australia and how much they enjoy playing for each other.

"Of course there are always going to be things that happen along the way, and some financial things that will restrict us, but the general attitude and approach is in the right place to meet the athlete's expectation."

The hiring of Simmons' godfather and former LSU mentor David Patrick as a Boomers assistant coach was also influential.

The same can be said for the Australian Basketballers' Association through its CEO Jacob Holmes, who recently toured the US to talk to Australia's NBA players about their expectations when in Boomers camp.

Holmes met with each player personally, which was well received and appreciated.

Then there is the General Manager of High Performance at Basketball Australia, Jan Stirling.

 

Andrej Lemanis is delighted to have Ben Simmons on board.
Andrej Lemanis is delighted to have Ben Simmons on board.

Lemanis believes Stirling deserves enormous credit for fostering the Boomers' performance program to ensure NBA stars like Simmons will commit for big events like the World Cup and the Olympics.

"Since Jan has come into that role in 2015 she has really taken us to a new level in terms of doing whatever it takes to be the best organisation we can be across both the men's and women's programs," he said.

"Her attitude with the Boomers has been: 'what do you need and let's make it happen'.

"Jan has helped to make it the best possible environment for the athletes, where there is now good dialog with the players and their representatives."

Last month, News Corp Australia reported Simmons was on track to represent Australia in warm-up matches in Melbourne and Perth and at the 2019 World Cup in China.

Longley, who has been a key facilitator in talks to secure Simmons a Boomers singlet, was confident the 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year would represent his country.

"My personal hunch is that he (Ben) wants to play," Longley said.

"But it's still unclear. The young man has a lot of moving parts he is learning to manage."

Lemanis praised Longley for his influential role in helping to lure Simmons.

"Luc plays a massive part in the entire process," he said.

"I'm so thankful that he has continued to be on staff and we really value what he brings to the table.

"What he really brings is an understanding. He has lived it. He also has an amazing ability to express himself in a really intelligent and well versed way.

"He also has a real pulse for the feel of the group and he understands where everyone is coming from."

Simmons will help Australia assemble the strongest Boomers team in history for the World Cup in China and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.