You get the sense there’s still a part of Tim Coenraad that can’t believe where he currently is.
When the calendar flipped to 2019, Coenraad hadn’t represented Australia before and the 34-year-old wasn’t even considering that possibility.
“Before the start of this year, I had never thought about the potential of representing my country,” Coenraad said.
“My mindset was pretty much, I’m not going to make the five on five team anymore. As an Australian I want us to send our best talent. The quality of those guys is out of this world, NBA style players.”
Fast forward to June and Coenraad’s CV now includes playing for the Australian Boomers in FIBA World Cup Qualifiers and playing a vital role in Australia’s rapid rise in 3×3, which sees them heading into next week’s FIBA 3×3 World Cup full of confidence.
The journey has been rapid for the Illawarra Hawks mainstay, and he has no shame in revealing how much seeing his name on the green and gold uniform means.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Coenraad said.
“To get the call up to play for the Boomers in the World Cup Qualifier, to have the coaching staff and those guys put that faith in me, I had tears in my eyes. I cried. When I got my jersey, I cried. I’m not afraid to say that.
“Every time I put on the green and gold I sit and stare for a while and reminisce about how this was my dream since I was a little kid.
“For it to all come in one year and for Dave (Biwer) to have faith in me to represent the country in 3×3, a sport that is growing so rapidly, to be kind of an ambassador for that when the Olympics are coming along, it’s mind blowing and I love it.
“Every time I see the green and gold jersey, I get goose bumps, especially when my name is on the back of it.”
Coenraad’s game has translated seamlessly into the 3×3 format, as his long-range shooting and length creates a slew of issues for the opposition.
That skillset has seen him become a staple in the national team framework, and Coenraad is poised to play a massive role in the World Cup.
Australia’s pool stage campaign will see them battle Brazil, Poland, Latvia and Japan, a steep increase in opposition compared to the qualification tournament and the Asia Cup.
Coenraad isn’t prepared to make predications or place an expectation on Australia, saying the group of himself, Tom Wright, Andrew Steel and Greg Hire simply need to play with the right attitude.
“In the World Cup, I’m not putting any expectations on any kind of finish or anything like that,” Coenraad said.
“All I’m putting expectations on is all four of us bringing our absolute A quality game and being switched on straight away. If we can all focus on being the best players we can be and play to our strengths and play to our potential, then places will take care of themselves.
“I’m not expecting anything. If we put everything in 100 percent, and we are happy with the way we played and come last, then at least we can look ourselves in the mirror. If we do that, though, I don’t think we are coming last.
“It’s all about putting the expectation on ourselves and I guess asking the most out of all of us. If we do that the cards will fall where they will, and I think we will finish pretty high.”
A top three finish at the World Cup won’t only see Australia take home a medal, but it also punches their ticket to an Olympic qualifying event.
3×3 basketball becoming an Olympic sport has given the game a massive boost, and Coenraad concedes he has thought about becoming an Olympian, a goal that is suddenly within reach.
“It’s (his mind) been pondering towards that for a while now,” Coenraad said.
“When I first started 3×3 I thought this is a bit of fun, this looks like a bit of fun, so I’ll give it a go. Playing in a tournament where we only had three guys out in Sydney in one of the Pro Hustles and I had an absolute amazing time. Lost to a couple of the guys that I’m playing with right now.
“I immediately fell in love with the style. In five on five a lot of the time, my position is to stretch the floor and to make sure guys who penetrate have enough space. Essentially, I’m not being hidden, but I’m being used in a different way.
“In 3×3, there’s no hiding. You’re involved all the time. The level of physicality and the way the game has been played I think suits my game.
“While five on five is a major focus as soon as the World Cup is done, right now it is all about 3×3 for me and getting the most out of these guys.
“Olympics would be a dream come true, that would be the next step for me. Having that on the table and knowing what’s at stake, I mean if you need any more motivation than playing for our country, I guess that would be it.”
Coenraad enters the World Cup feeling refreshed, after a few weeks at home with his family.
While the short sabbatical saw Coenraad miss some FIBA 3×3 World Tour events with West Melbourne Stateside, he says he is now ready to go for the World Cup.
“I knew I was going to be going away for a fair time, so I wanted to spend some time with the family, believe it or not there’s more important things than basketball, which wasn’t always my mindset but I definitely figured that time with my wife and my little one is extremely valuable,” Coenraad said.
“I turned down a few of the Masters and Challengers to focus on family life for a while. Now I feel fresh, I’ve been working out back home.
“Now the only thing I need to get used to is wrestling guys. We did a lot of that at training camp and we will do a lot of that in preparation because that’s a big part of it, being physical and knowing how to be physical and using people’s strengths against them.
“I’m feeling pretty good coming in.”
Even though success is coming quickly, Australia is an inexperienced group compared to their World Cup rivals.
Coenraad acknowledges the Aussies will need to build cohesion and they’ll do so with practice games against other nations before the World Cup begins and film sessions, vital elements of preparation.
“I think it’s essential because if you take a look at some of the teams that we are playing against, they’ve been playing together for a long time,” Coenraad said.
“They’ve got chemistry, some of them have four-to-six years playing together under their belt.
“For us, time is valuable. Us getting together and working out our strengths and weaknesses more and more is going to be valuable when it gets to the stretch where it’s 17 all and you’ve got to come up with a bucket.
“Any chance to get together you got to grab it with both hands and I think it is a great idea having us get together before the World Cup and having a good training camp. Last couple of tournaments we have come into it has always been that one warm up game that we have needed, it’s always that one game to switch us back into 3×3 mode. From there we are usually pretty good.
“The calibre of players in the World Cup will be a step up to what we are used to and this sort of preparation makes us prepared for that.
“We have to focus on the teams in our pool for now and we are able to get film on them and we are able to watch YouTube. Watching on tape is a lot different to playing in real life.
“Anything we can do to figure out their tendencies, what kind of sets they run, what kind of defence they run, we are going to take full advantage of that.”
Once his 3×3 commitments have finished, Coenraad will get back to focusing on the Hawks’ 2019/20 campaign.
Illawarra will take a fresh look into the new NBL season, with Matt Flinn coming in as head coach and 2018 NBL champion Josh Boone signing with the squad.
Coenraad and Boone are sure to share minutes in the frontcourt during the season, a partnership the 2015 Hawks MVP is looking forward to make work.
He also believes Boone provides Illawarra with attributes they haven’t had before.
“I think he provides something that we’ve probably been missing for a little while, a guy who just works so well off the ball,” Coenraad said.
“I think AJ (Ogilvy) has the potential to be that guy and we have all seen what AJ can do, he is a tremendous player on both sides of the ball.
“I think Josh Boone adds that element of the guy being in the right spot at the right time. We know his capability of rebounding which is what we have needed.
“He is able to finish around the basket, he is great in pick and roll situations which is where the game is headed. Most teams now when it comes down the stretch it is either an iso or pick and roll. We need guys who know how to read that situation.
“He is a big body inside who can change shots. I think he is a great signing for us, he is going to bring some strength.
“From what I’ve seen he is a very professional player, which is essentially what any team wants. His ability to use the pick and roll, to defend the pick and roll, and to be that guy who is in the right spot at the right time will be invaluable for us.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know him and this next season should be a blast.”