Australians will get to see the Boomers play on home soil more often from 2017 under radical changes to international basketball’s competition schedule.
World governing body FIBA has revamped the calendar to help streamline qualification for World Cups and Olympic Games.
It means more fixtures over a longer period in the lead-up to these events.
For Australia, the biggest difference is their inclusion in the Asian region.
Currently, the Boomers only contest the Oceania Championships with New Zealand – a tournament that is played every two years and doubles as qualification for World Cups and Olympics.
The two-leg series beginning in Melbourne on Saturday and continuing in Wellington on Tuesday will be the last under that system.
From 2017, the Boomers and Tall Blacks will be allowed to play in the Asian Cup, ensuring more competitive games against top-ranked nations such as world No.14 China, Iran and South Korea.
Crucially, though, they won’t lose their Oceania quota spot by doing so – meaning one of the two will still qualify for the Olympic Games and World Cup, but not necessarily the team who wins their head-to-head series.
Basketball Australia (BA) chief executive Anthony Moore said on Friday the changes were a “significant win” for the national men’s team.
“In the previous system, we would turn up once every two years to qualify for a World Cup or an Olympic Games,” he said.
“This provides … more regular opportunities for the Boomers to be on home soil, playing home-and-away matches, that actually mean something. They’re genuine qualifying matches.
“We’ve seen the benefit that’s provided with the Socceroos in football, and we’re really excited that this opportunity has come.
“In my view, it’s a game-changer for us.
“It’s the opportunity to actually take our men’s national team all around our big country.”
Moore said BA was considering a bid to host the 2017 Asian Cup.
However, the opportunity to see Australia’s NBA stars will be limited.
The six windows available for each qualification period fall outside some domestic competitions – but not the NBA or US college seasons, over which FIBA has no control.
It means NBA players will only be available for games that fall in their off-season – September or June, if they’re not in the playoffs.
FIBA are also reworking the women’s schedule, which it hopes to finalise before 2018.
WHAT ARE THE MAJOR CHANGES?
* World Cup moved from 2018 to 2019, then every four years (2023, 2027, 2031, etc.), avoiding the clash with other major sporting events
* Two-year qualification period for each World Cup: 6 windows per qualification period (Nov, Feb, June, Sept, Nov, Feb)
* World Cup played with 32 teams (1 host, 5 from Africa, 7 from Americas, 7 from Asia/Oceania, 12 from Europe)
* Qualification for Olympic Games through World Cup and Olympic qualifying tournaments
* Asia and Oceania to play the qualification phase in an Asia-Pacific region to ensure competitive games
* All continental championships to follow four-year cycle (2017, 2021, 2025 etc.)