Exclusive: Matt Nielsen Q&A
The captain of the Australian Boomers, Matt Nielsen, opens up about playing in Europe, being the team's leader and the Olympic Games in an exclusive Q&A.
He is one of the veterans of the Australian Boomers squad and heading into his third Olympic campaign, Matt Nielsen is ready to lead the next generation of Aussie stars to the biggest event on the planet.
With the turnaround between your European club commitments and the Australian Boomers preparations for London only small how do you feel mentally and physically?
Matt Nielsen: When youíre still in the season and you know that youíre going to go home and eight days later itís going to start again itís a little bit daunting. Really once you get back in here with the boys itís just a matter of finding that balance.
Mentally itís really not that big of an issue. I feel like there is so much ahead of us that is exciting and I want to be a part of, so thatís fine, itís just you have to make sure you look after yourself.
Iím not as young as I used to be as well, so I think itís just a matter of looking after the body, pushing it hard enough, but getting that important rest as well.
Talk about your role as captain, particularly how you view that role and what you want to bring to the group. Do you enjoy the challenge?
MN: As captain Iím pretty much just trying to be myself, I donít try to overdue things. I think weíve got a good leadership group, the guys who have been around the program long enough are all confident in their roles to help the younger guys.
Looking forward into the actual campaign I donít see it any differently than what Iíve done all the way along. Iím not great on speeches or revving the boys up too much.
I really feel like its actions that are better used and I try to play the way I play, as hard as I can and just go from there.
Tell us what itís like playing in Europe. For some of the Aussie fans itís pretty difficult to find video and to find games online. Whatís the standard of competition like? For a lot of the Boomers playing over there, how do you think itís going to prepare them for international play?
MN: Itís really different. I just finished my eighth season over there and Iíve been over there a long time now. Itís definitely just like a different sport, the whole style of play is different. Coming back into camp now, it just highlights that itís two very different styles.
Europe obviously has a lot of talented players, the money has attracted those fringe players that used to stay in the NBA, and theyíve come over pretty quickly these days. Itís not uncommon that most of the top teams guys who could go and play on NBA squads.
Now when you talk about the Boomers and our experience, I think itís great. Guys like Brad (Newley), Joe (Ingles), Dave (Barlow) and AJ (Ogilvy) all playing in Spain, thatís huge because Iíve played in Spain myself and thatís a top level league.
Chris Anstey said the biggest distraction at the Olympic Games is the Olympic Games itself. Do you get better at avoiding those distractions and focusing in on what you need to get done?
MN: Yeah, I think so. Iíve wanted to go to the Olympic Games since I was like six years old, the Los Angeles Olympics lit a fire in me before I even had a sport to channel that energy into.
I wanted to go to an Olympic Games, I wanted to be a part of that. So I know the feeling, at Athens, trying to lock in. As much as Iíve always wanted to go to an Olympic Games I feel like I channeled the energy the right way once I got there to give everything I could and play as well as I could.
I also donít think thereís a problem with embracing how big the event is and running with it and using it in a good way to say, ďYouíve got to this point and you should be proud,Ē and having as big a crack as you can. I think itís just about finding that balance of really just enjoying whatís going on and channeling it in the right way.
Is it the pinnacle for basketball?
MN: For me, for sure. Green and gold, thereís no prouder thing for playing basketball than to actually put it in the Olympic Games. Itís awesome and thereís no way you could top it.