This Friday the friendly YouYi Games series between Australia and China tips off in Perth. The series, coordinated by former Boomers great, Andrew Vlahov, was originally destined to be a three-game series, however a third game slated to be played in China has been canned. Game two will be played in Singapore on Sunday 26 June. Both games will be shown on OneHD in Australia (11:10pm AEDT Friday and Midnight Sunday).

The Boomers have been preparing for the series with a five-day camp in Perth this week. The games provide a good opportunity to blood new talent for future Boomers events, whilst adding weight to the campaigns of fringe Australia squad members in getting noticed by Head Coach Brett Brown for the 2012 London Olympics team.

Despite lacking the still-injured Yao Ming and the US-based Yi Jianlian, China has a fairly solid team for the Games, which should make for an even and interesting series, given the watered-down roster that the usually-superior Australia has put gathered. The travelling squad of 16 for China will include nine from the 2010 Turkey FIBA World Championships (per Asia-Basket): 

Guards: Liu Wei, Yu Shulong, Xirilijiang, Wang Shipeng, Zhang Qingpeng, Zhang Bo, Sun Yue
Forwards: Zhu Fangyu, Ding Jinhui, Zhou Peng, Yi Li, Wang Lei, Mo Ke
Centers: Wang Zhizhi, Su Wei, Zhang Zhaoxu

Of particular interest for Australia will be how they handle experienced guards Liu Wei, Wang Shipeng, as well as versatile big guard Sun Yue (“the Chinese Magic Johnson”). Wang ZhiZhi is always a tough cover with his experience and outside shooting ability.

Australia will be headlined by David Barlow, as one of the few certainties to play in London 2012. The swingman has been performing well in Spain as an import and will look to stamp his authority on this series as the marquee player. Perth Wildcats star guard Damian Martin, who has already performed well for Australia on the international stage, will lead the team from the backcourt, on both ends of the floor.

Meanwhile, the starting shooting guard role will be Peter Crawford‘s. The dynamic NBL veteran has never made much impact at international level and the time is now for the Townsville Crocodile to stamp his name as a Boomers stalwart for the final years of his career. His ability to hit the outside shot, get to the basket and play solid defence should make him a player to watch in this series, with a view to sneaking into the London 2012 squad amongst the likes of Barlow, Joe Ingles, Brad Newley and Mark Worthington.

The remainder of the squad is comprised of a number of bigs who will be battling for final London 2012 roster spots and smaller inexperienced youngsters who will be looking to make a name for themselves for future consideration. The former category consists of Luke Nevill and Aron Baynes (both of which will always be considered for their size alone) and Daniel Kickert (currently playing in Poland and capable of spreading the floor with his mid-range game). Kickert has yet to have the same opportunities as Nevill and Baynes in showing his wares internationally and could use this chance to slip into the squad down the track.

The younger guards and swingmen looking to gain valuable experience include Sydney Kings Ben Madgen, Luke Cooper and Anatoly Bose, new Melbourne Tigers signing Daniel Dillon and the Wollongong Hawks’ Rhys Martin. Particular focus will be on the ability of Madgen and Bose to score and Dillon to handle the pressure of backing up Martin at the point.

Cam Tragardh has been brought into the team to provide a scoring presence in the middle, something that Nevill, Baynes and to a lesser extent Kickert fail to provide. “Trigger” is not known for his defensive hustle, so that area may be the determining factor in how many minutes Brett Brown can play him for. Contrastingly, Perth Wildcats big Jesse Wagstaff, who was injured in the second half of the NBL season, will be relied upon for rebounding and defence. 

Bolstering squad members for the five-day training camp have been the likes of youngsters Tom Jervis (Perth) and AIS scholarship holder Dante Exum. Exum has gained significant attention, as he is only 15 years of age (16 in July) and slightly built; a boy amongst men. He is the son of former NBL import Cecil Exum, of Geelong Supercats fame. Brown has been quoted as seeing him as a future Boomers fixture.