Melbourne United guard Chris Goulding is not expected to take his place in the Australian Boomers side for FIBA World Cup qualifiers this week, with Illawarra guard Mitch Norton called into the squad.
Goulding was cleared of any serious injury after spraining his ankle in Melbourne’s final-round loss to Illawarra Hawks at Hisense Arena on Sunday but will spend the week rehabilitating the foot.
While the Boomers' medical staff and their United counterparts will work together to help Goulding recover, Australian coach Andrej Lemanis called Norton and asked him to stay in Melbourne after the Hawks' win.
Lemanis said it would take a “minor miracle” for Goulding to play and it was best to allow his ankle to recover before Melbourne United’s finals campaign tips off on March 3.
The NBL-based Boomers won both their opening round qualifiers in November and Lemanis established a broad squad of local players so he could interchange them when injuries or match-ups demanded a change.
Norton played in the FIBA Asia Cup win last year but was overlooked for this window. However he jumped at the chance to rejoin the squad.
“It just worked out he played in Melbourne and was at the hotel so it was an easy conversation,” Lemanis said.
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“That for me is another great example of the tremendous attitude that makes this group so great to work with as Mitch missed the initial 12, then Chris goes down and I call him up and say, 'Chris might be in, he might not be but I want you to hang around'.
“Basically the response was 'Hell yes', which is again what makes them such a great group to be around.”
Lemanis spoke with Goulding and both medical staffs on Monday and immediately knew the playmaker was an unlikely starter.
“We are not going to do anything that will put him at risk or his campaign with United into the play-offs,” Lemanis said.
The Boomers play both their FIBA World Cup qualifiers at Margaret Court Arena, facing an undefeated Philippines side on Thursday night then Chinese Taipei on Sunday night.
With the top three teams from the four-team group going through to the second round of qualifiers, the Boomers are already well on their way but they want to finish as high as possible in their first time qualifying in Asia.
The Philippines beat Japan in the opening round and feature former NBA big man Andray Blatche plus a host of speedy, attacking guards.
When the Boomers hit the practice court on Tuesday their attentions will quickly turn to how they can slow 'Gilas Pilipinas'.
“When we selected this team we were pretty well aware of the challenges they represent so we need to get numbers in front of the ball and control their transition,” Lemanis said.
“They are a good, skilled team who have played well together for a while but by the same token we have some things that can challenge them as well.”
The Boomers face the Philippines at Margaret Court Arena on Thursday at 7.30pm.
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD