Two Penrith Basketball juniors will take their careers to the highest level later this month when they represent the Australian Boomers in Okinawa, Japan.
Last week Basketball Australia announced their squad of 17 players for the FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian Qualifiers, with 32-year-old Angus Brandt and 19-year-old Akoldah Gak among those selected.
Brandt, who last played with Penrith back in 2014, is no stranger to the national team, having been selected in numerous overseas tournaments as well as the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
A two-time NBL champion with Perth and former NBL Rookie of the Year with Sydney, Brandt has taken his talents all over the world playing in New Zealand, China, Italy and Japan in recent years.
While Brandt will offer the Boomers plenty of size and experience at the centre position, his new teammate in Gak is one of the rising young stars of the national basketball scene.
A current member of the Illawarra Hawks, the former St Dominic’s College student’s career has exploded in the past 18 months under the guidance of Hawks and Boomers Olympic coach Brian Goorjian.
Having represented Australia at the 2021 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Latvia, Gak also played a key role with Penrith’s Youth Men team last year before the season was ultimately scrapped due to the COVID lockdown.
With Australia’s current NBA players unavailable for selection, a talent pool of players from the Centre of Excellence, NBA Global Academy and NBL make up the 17-man Boomers squad.
With the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup looming large the depth of talent coming through Australian basketball pathways couldn’t come at a better time for Boomers head coach Rob Beveridge.
“The talent that we are putting on the floor, although young, have all been part of Basketball Australia’s National Pathway and I have no doubt they will represent our country with distinction,” said Beveridge, who did some mentoring work at Penrith back in 2020.
“I am really excited about coaching these up and coming future stars and exposing them to what it means to be part of the Boomers program.”
The Boomers will play three matches at the qualifying tournament later this month, with two games against Chinese Taipei on February 25 and 28, as well as a game against Japan on February 27 on the schedule.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.