Rising talent Dante Exum, 15, shines at Boomers camp

Rising talent Dante Exum, 15, shines at Boomers camp

The strong showing that 15-year-old excitement machine Dante Exum has made in camp with the Golden Star Boomers in Perth this week has been enough to show head coach Brett Brown that he's a definite future star of Australian basketball.

The youngest player on record to be invited to a Boomers camp - Andrew Gaze was 16 years of age when he first made a Boomers squad - the Australian Institute of Sport scholarship holder is no stranger to Brown either after his father Cecil was coached by him in a career that saw him play college at North Carolina with Michael Jordan and then in the NBL with the North Melbourne Giants and Geelong Supercats.

Now, though, at just 15 his son is showing that he is an incredibly exciting prospect for the future.

The long and athletic swingman has this week at the Boomers training camp shown an ability to more than match up his ability with the likes of seasoned campaigners Peter Crawford, David Barlow, Daniel Dillon, Ben Madgen and Anatoly Bose.

That has been an incredible experience for the youngster who was just enjoying his underage basketball representing Australia recently in China at under-19 level and at the AIS.

Brown looks at the youngster and instantly goes back to the days of coaching his dad, but immediately has been impressed by Dante's attitude, ability and potential. Everything he has done this week suggests his future is incredibly bright.

"I coached his dad and it's funny because in his face I see Cecil. He got pulled out of his China tour at the last minute because he played so well and he is fantastic. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know because he is 15 years old and he comes into the gym without any backing down," Brown said.

"He is highly skilled and he will represent Australia one day. It certainly is positive for the program because we feel we have uncovered someone to develop and pay attention to, and he is a long, athletic wing with a high degree of skill. It's been a real plus for him and for us."

It's fair to say that Exum was quite shocked when he first got invited to join the Boomers in Perth and felt even more nervous when he joined the group for the first time and looked around to see the NBL stars, European standouts and strong performers in college around him.

However, he has tried to get on top of those nerves and he's feeling more and more comfortable the longer he is out on court with the 15-man squad and learning under Brown, plus assistant coaches Andrej Lemanis and Marty Clarke.

"I've been very nervous the first couple of training sessions, but I've adapted well and am starting to get into the drills a little bit more. The fellas are helping me out a lot and it's been good," Exum said.

"Of course you feel intimidated by playing against 26-year-old men and I'm only 15 but you just start to get used to it and have to keep playing, and trying to do what you normally do at your local club."

As for his dad, Dante has nothing but good things to say in regards to how much he has helped him to date and he has just tried to follow his advice while with the Boomers. Although he has cheekily suggested he'd like to surpass his dad's career over time.

"My dad just tells me to go for it and not to waste the opportunity, make sure I listen to the coaches and that's what I have been trying to do," he said.

"He has always been there for me and been my coach and father figure. He's someone who can give me individuals, help me with what I need to work on in my game. He's been really good for me.

"Actually I've seen one of his tapes and while we watch it he goes through telling me what I should do. It's a good learning point for me, but I hope to do even better than him."

Making Exum feel more at ease this week has been the fact that Perth Wildcats championship-winning point guard and last year's Boomers' representative at the World Championships, Damian Martin has taken him under his wing on and off the court.

"I've been rooming with Damian Martin and he has been like a mentor to me trying to help me ease into this program," he said.

"If I make a mistake on the court he has just been telling me what to do and how I can prevent that mistake further down the track."

While this week is just a tremendous learning experience for Exum, there's no doubt he has shown an ability to play at international level and he is now setting his sights on making his debut for the Boomers at some stage.

"It would be an honour to play," he said.

"We were just over in China playing an under-19 team and that was pretty good, but to play in front of a lot of fans in the men's team would be exciting. I would be so nervous though."

As for what his future holds and whether or not he'll look to go to college or play professionally as soon as he can, that's not something he'll entertain yet while he still has plenty of school ahead of him to finish first.

"I'm just looking to finish school right now and get the best possible grades that I can get," Exum said.

"Then from there I will decide what I want to do."

The Golden Star Boomers team is expected to be named tomorrow, before the scheduled press conference at 12 noon local time (2.00pm AEDT).  

Friday night's game tips off at 8pm (local time) as the Golden Star Boomers take on China. Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com.au.


ONE HD’s scheduled coverage of the YouYi Games:

Game 1:
Golden Star Boomers vs China, Friday 24 June, 2011 (Perth) OneHD Coverage commences at 11.10pm AEDT. (WA 11.25pm local time delayed telecast)

Game 2: Golden Star Boomers vs China, Sunday 26 June, 2011 (Singapore) OneHD Coverage commences at 12.00 midnight AEDT (10pm WDT, 11.30pm ACDT)

By Chris Pike

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