The Boomers took care of business over the weekend, finishing the FIBA World Cup qualifying window with a 3-0 record, improving to 6-0 overall at the end of the first round.
While the team had essentially booked their place in the second round prior to the weekend's hoops at John Cain Arena, the undefeated stretch carries significant importance, with the results carrying through to the next round on the path to the World Cup.
As expected, it was the defensive end of the floor that excelled, while timely fourth quarter offence in both match-ups against China ensured an unblemished record remained intact.
Prior to training camp, Boomers guard Mitch McCarron told ESPN that the group felt a responsibility to put the program in the best possible position for when the NBA contingent are available, but after several standout performances, head coach Brian Goorjian has expressed a desire for a few names from this group to join the squad at the World Cup.
Given I was fortunate enough to be courtside for all the action in Melbourne, here's some thoughts after a fun weekend of hoops.
WILL McDOWELL-WHITE STOCK GROWS
Keeping track of all the outstanding Aussies plying their trade across the world is an almost impossible feat, so it makes sense that Will McDowell-White is somewhat of an under-the-radar prospect to this point in time.
After several years in the G League, McDowell-White has spent a season and a half on a New Zealand Breakers roster that has been heavily handicapped by pandemic restrictions, injuries and roster turnover.
Goorjian highlighted the 24-year-old as a player to watch on the road to the World Cup, and it's fair to say the last few days have only elevated his status with the Boomers camp.
"I was very high on him coming in. I thought he's an important piece in this. We see McDowell-White, in what he's done in New Zealand, he's a great pick-and-roll guy and a lot of these guys with their NBL team they don't have the fortune of having the other ball carrier with him," Goorjian said after the win over Japan on Friday night.
That's the big question with McDowell-White. Is he a true point guard that can orchestrate an entire offence? If the answer is no, can he be big enough threat from the outside to play off the ball in multi-guard lineups?
For the Boomers, the answer was yes to question number two. Finishing 6-for-13 from long range, McDowell-White's willingness to take and make big shots in big moments was eye catching. While he isn't yet a knock down shooter, he did connect on 36.9 of his long-range attempts in NBL22 (albeit on a low volume of 1.3 attempts per game).
The sample size is small, but it's something to monitor.
THON SHAKES OFF THE RUST
The lone player in the squad to have not laced up his sneakers in NBL22, Thon Maker also faced the significant challenge of being thrown into the deep end against a talented (and humongous) Chinese frontcourt after very little competitive basketball over the last 24 months.
After a two-point, two-rebound effort against China on Thursday night, I was curious to see how and if Maker would respond given the physical challenges of three games in four nights.
After handling an undersized Japan line-up, Maker once again went toe-to-toe with Chinese megastar Zhou Qi and walked away with the points.
Tallying 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes, it was a trademark performance from Maker, with his infectious energy leading to a significant impact on both ends.
The big man may have been tasked with the biggest individual defensive challenge of the weekend, but he wasn't left to do it alone, with the Boomers team defence producing three extraordinary performances.
China and Japan combined to shoot a paltry 59-for-184 (32 percent) across the window in a number that Goorjian would be absolutely thrilled with.
The good news for Maker and the Boomers is that he has confirmed to ESPN on Monday afternoon that he will be travelling to Indonesia next week for the Asia Cup campaign, building momentum towards his next club venture later in the year.
MELBOURNE UNITED DUO FINISH THE JOB
Prior to the window, Jack White expressed his excitement to play alongside Matthew Dellavedova, a Boomers legend who he idolised growing up.
A few nights later, the pair ran rampant in the fourth quarter, leading to a staggering 26-3 period against a China team that looked every bit up to the task until that avalanche.
White finished the night with 16 points and 14 rebounds, while Dellavedova added 13 points and three assists as the old and the new combined to clinch victory on Melbourne United's home floor.
I was fortunate enough to poke my head in timeouts during the window and getting to witness Dellavedova taking control of the group firsthand was a highlight.
"He's the coach within the group. My job, and I learned it really quick, is to keep my mouth shut and step back and let them control this," Goorjian said of Dellavedova.
"There has been an additional empowerment of guys underneath, you see it in Jack White, along with Thon Maker and Mitch McCarron. There is four of them there with Delly leading the charge."
Of course, Goorjian is being modest, but Dellavedova did control the message during key moments, at times grabbing the whiteboard and drawing up sets, while constantly teaching and directing with years of Boomers institutional knowledge under his belt.
Of course, this will be nothing new to those that have been inside the locker room in previous years, but it was eye opening for myself, nonetheless.
On a fun note, rising stars Tyrese Proctor and Alex Ducas suited up for the final game, which made me consider a fun question.
With Proctor set to join Duke this season, he has fellow 'Dukie', White on his side, but with Ducas spending the last three years at St Mary's, he joins Dellavedova in a long line of Australian players to represent the Californian school.
White and Proctor vs. Dellavedova and Ducas. Who wins a game of two-on-two?
I'll take the size of White alongside Proctor, I think....
SOUTH SUDAN ROLL ON
While we have been focusing on the Boomers, I want to tip my hat to the South Sudan squad, who have rolled through to the second round of the African World Cup qualifying stage undefeated, after defeating Cameroon, Rwanda and Tunisia over the weekend.
The South Sudanese-Australian basketball community is rich with talent, with the NBL and NBL1 loaded with rising stars coming through the ranks.
This version of the South Sudan squad featured many familiar faces, including NBL Rookie of the Year Bul Kuol, Majok Deng and Sunday Dech among others.
South Sudan join Cote d'Ivoire as the only undefeated teams through the first two windows of African qualification.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE BOOMERS?
The second round of qualification will be held across three windows in August, November and February.
The Boomers will be joined by China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Iran and one of Syria and Bahrain in a combination of Group "B" and "D" to form Group "F".
12 teams advance to the second round, with seven teams to advance to the FIBA World Cup to be held in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia next August.