Simmons' rise lets Gaze set sights on Olympic gold
BASKETBALL: Aussie basketball legend Andrew Gaze says Ben Simmons can pull off the unthinkable and lead the Boomers to Tokyo Olympic gold in 2020.
Gaze went to five Olympic Games and believes the star Philadelphia 76ers rookie can help the Aussie national team make a huge leap in Tokyo.
The Boomers finished fourth in Rio, pipped for their first Olympic medal in the bronze game by a dodgy foul call against Spain, after pushing Team USA in the group stages.
"You look at Spain, all bar a mysterious call, you say we'd probably win that game,” Gaze said.
"So now you throw in a Ben Simmons, a (Milwaukee Buck) Thon Maker that seems like he's making real progress, (Sixers draftee) Jonah Bolden's another one, (injured Utah Jazz guard) Dante (Exum).
"With those two or three, combined with what we already have, which has clearly shown we can play at the highest level, not only should we be thinking of being competitive and winning a medal, but, dare we say it, based on our performance against the USA team in Rio, you don't have to stretch your imagination that far to say well, you know, it's not inconceivable that we could actually win a gold medal.”
While winning gold would mean toppling the might of Team USA, Gaze pointed to Rio to remind everyone the likes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George are vulnerable and believes Simmons can help conquer them in 2020.
The Australians led the Americans at half-time in Rio and were within four points with less than two minutes to go, before Irving and Durant iced it from the free throw line, 98-88.
"It was a much, much closer game than people think, they (the Boomers) were in that game up to their eyeballs,” Gaze said.
"The next emerging LeBron James is Ben Simmons and if he does reach that level, there's no reason why he can't take us to the next level on the international stage.
"It's incredible to think how far the game has come, how close we are to some of the best teams in the world and how we can go into an international competition these days as one of the favourites.
"With the passion that these guys have, if they can maintain that desire and determination and commitment to playing for Australia, combined with those incredible skillsets, there's no reason why we shouldn't have very high expectations.”