Written for NBL.com.au by Kane Pitman. Image via @australianboomers
At 35 years old, David Barlow thought his chance to play in the green and gold in a major tournament had passed him by.
That was until the shock phone call from Boomers head coach, Andrej Lemanis, came through after Jonah Bolden was forced to withdraw from national team duties for personal reasons.
“I guess in this industry you never say never and as my body started to feel better I always would day dream about the possibilities for sure,” Barlow revealed to the media after Boomers practice on Wednesday morning in Melbourne.
“How realistic that was, I don’t know, like I said, you never say never. I didn’t think it was highly likely, but you always dream for the best.”
In what he hopes is a fairy tale return, Barlow’s national team career has officially come full circle, with his Boomers debut coming way back at the 2006 FIBA World Cup in Japan. Barlow is also a two-time Olympian, though his last appearance came back in 2012.
“It’s been a crazy couple of days. I guess I haven’t been to a major tournament in a while. I always dreamt of getting back here so in that sense it’s a dream come true for me to be able to put myself back in this position. When I got that call, I guess it was a fairly emotional time for me and my family too.”
Lemanis drew a big smile when thinking back to the moment he was able to reveal the good news to the Melbourne United forward.
“There’s lot of great moments being involved with the national team and none more so than having the chat with David Barlow and just the genuine joy in his voice and thankfulness for being given this opportunity,” Lemanis said.
With the Boomers World Cup opener less than two weeks away, Lemanis pointed to Barlow’s familiarity with the national team structures as a vital element of the decision to insert him into the squad.
“The games against Canada gave us a chance to assess the skills that we have in the group, how we wanted to play and what we needed to compliment the skillsets that we had.”
“Obviously we want to hang our hat on the defensive end, to be involved in disruptive defensive systems, to be able to switch and hold his own against guards but also against bigs and his basketball IQ.”
“He’s been in the system before, he understands our offensive structures very well, he knows how to manipulate it, even when the guys worked out with him two weeks ago, he was helping some of the players with his understanding of it. We thought in terms of a smooth transition and minimising disruption we thought he’d be good for all those reasons.”
Having played with Barlow in those previous Olympic campaigns, Matthew Dellavedova responded without hesitation when asked how he expected Barlow to fit into the group.
“Barlow just fits in seamlessly, great teammate, knows the system, knows the boys so it’s been great so far and I’m sure it’s going to be great going forward,” Dellavedova said.
Barlow will miss Thursday night’s game against Team USA with a minor back complaint, though the minor setback is but a mere bump in the road for the veteran as there is no place his rather be.
“[It’s] the highs and lows of being an athlete. It goes with how your body goes, I was a bit injury riddled for a while there and I’ve just been working my way back slowly and have enjoyed the whole process.”
Barlow and the Boomers are hoping that process he speaks of will have a golden ending next month in China.