KEY BOOMER: Aron Baynes dunks for the San Antonio Spurs during the side’s successful NBA campaign.
KEY BOOMER: Aron Baynes dunks for the San Antonio Spurs during the side’s successful NBA campaign. Kevin C Coxgetty Images

Boomers aiming to block out Suns star

LUC Longley knows what it takes to have success at the highest level.

Now assistant coach with the Australian men's side, Longley was part of the Boomers team that recorded its best finish at an Olympic Games - equal fourth in Seoul in 1988.

He then went on to even greater heights, winning three NBA championship rings with the Chicago Bulls, playing in a team that included superstars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

But Longley is a realist, and knows the Boomers will have to play "out of their skins" to claim their first medal in a global tournament at the world championships which start in Spain tomorrow morning (AEST).

Ranked No.9 in the world, Australia has drawn 13th-ranked Slovenia first up, and will also face South Korea, Lithuania, Mexico and Angola in its Group D matches.

"If we want to come away with a medal we're going to have to play at a really high level," Longley told APN.

"But if the boys play really hard, I can't ask for anything more than that."

Longley said the key to beating Slovenia, and his team getting its campaign off to a good start, would be limiting the influence of Phoenix Suns star Goran Dragic.

The 27-year-old was the NBA's most improved player last season, posting a career-best 20.3 points per game.

"We need to try and shut down Dragic as well as we can," Longley said.

"Slovenia executed its plays reasonably well against the US (in a 101-71 loss to the defending champions in its final warm-up match), and they managed to hit the glass often. But, defensively, they're not juggernauts - and we can do some damage in offence."

Longley also pointed out that the Boomers' chances against the highly-rated Lithuania, in their third game of the tournament on Wednesday morning, had been improved by the loss of its captain and main point guard, Mantas Kalnietis, with a dislocated collarbone.

Australia goes into the tournament without its best two players, with Golden Centre Warriors centre Andrew Bogut and San Antonio guard Patty Mills both recovering after post-season operations.

But, Longley said he expected Mills' teammate at San Antonio, forward Aron Baynes, to step up despite getting limited game time with the Spurs last season.

"People tend to overlook Baynesy, but he was averaging 15 to 20 points and 10 rebounds for us every night in our pre-tournament matches," Longley said.

"Joe Ingles can do a lot of clever things for us too, and Dante Exum is only 18 but he'll become a really good player."



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