Legend leads Australians in tuneup vs RP five
() - March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Legendary Australian league veteran Bruce Bolden leads a 12-man lineup coming from Down Under to test coach Yeng Guiao’s Philippine team in a two-game series on April 3 and 5 at the Araneta Coliseum.

Bolden, 45, was a fixture in the National Basketball League (NBL) for 17 years and was the finals MVP when the South East Melbourne Magic won the title in 1992. The 6-9, 235-pound forward from Boise State, Idaho, made his Australian debut in the minors in 1985 then moved up to the NBL two years later. In 472 NBL games, he averaged 17.8 points and 9.1 rebounds, shooting .530 from the floor and .760 from the line.

After winding up his NBL career in 2003, Bolden played two more seasons for the Albury Wodonga Bandits in the Australian Basketball Association (ABA) before retiring. In 2004, he averaged 27.4 points and 12.5 rebounds for the Bandits.

Bolden will be the visitors’ playing coach. Also in the roster are 6-9 Anthony Susnjara, 6-7 Brad Williamson, 6-6 Graeme Dann, 6-4 Eban Hyams, 6-5 Anto Lalic, 6-6 Terry Amir, 6-9 Goran Veg, 6-3 Michael Cedar, 6-7 Leslie Coe, 5-11 Sami Tsegay and 6-3 Mark De’Riviere.

The Hoopdreamz selection, known as the Great White Sharks, will wear the traditional Australian green and gold colors. The team is arriving April 2.

“We will definitely give the Philippine team a run for its money,” said Bolden who once led the NBL in rebounding. “The Hoopdreamz Australian team will match the Filipinos’ speed, strength and athleticism. We have full respect for the PBA stars and head coach Guiao but we’re hoping to shake it up on their homecourt.”

Hoopdreamz general manager Marco Selorio said he added two NBL players to the squad instead of bringing in assistant coach Brett Coxsedge “so we can really show the Philippine team how serious we are.” The late additions are Williamson and Cedar who played for the Townsville Crocodiles with Alaska import Rosell Ellis this past NBL season.

The Philippine team is made up of Burger King’s Arwind Santos and Cyrus Baguio, Sta. Lucia Realty’s Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes, Talk ‘N’ Text’s Ranidel de Ocampo and Jared Dillinger, San Miguel Beer’s Mick Pennisi, Purefoods’ James Yap and Kerby Raymundo, Coca-Cola’s Asi Taulava, Alaska’s Willie Miller and Sonny Thoss, Rain or Shine’s Gabe Norwood and Barangay Ginebra’s Jay-Jay Helterbrand.

After the Australian series, the Philippine team will engage the PBA North All-Stars coached by Chot Reyes with three imports in Victorias on April 22, the PBA South All-Stars coached by Tim Cone with three other imports in Panabo on April 24 and the North and South starters reinforced by four imports at the Araneta Colsieum on April 26. The squad will compete in the SEABA Championships in Medan, Indonesia, starting June 6, the Jones Cup in Taipei on July 18-26 and the FIBA-Asia Championships in Tianjin on Aug. 6-16.

Bolden, an American, has lived in Australia over 20 years. He was an assistant coach with the West Sydney Razorbacks and still plays the game.

Asked what it is about basketball he enjoys, Bolden told One-on-One Magazine, “the competitiveness – the fact that I can go out there and, if I’m in a position where I’ve got the ball, I can take my man to the basket.”

Bolden said now that he’s 45, it’s time to give back to the game.

“Basketball doesn’t last forever,” said Bolden, quoted by One-on-One. “If you’re going to be true to yourself about that, it’s going to be a shock when it happens. I’d like to give something back to basketball. Basketball has been great to me.”

Bolden was 13 when he decided to junk baseball and football and concentrate on basketball after a cousin encouraged him to play hoops in his Flint, Michigan, hometown because “I was tall for my age.” That led to Bolden joining his junior high school team and later, playing for Boise State. He had a brief stint in Norway before making his way to Australia.   – J. Henson

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