Dante Exum training with the Australian Boomers at the AIS on Thursday. Photo: Rohan Thomson Matthew Dellavedova (right) is guarded by Damien Martin at the Australian Boomers training camp at the AIS on Thursday. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Life has definitely changed for Dante Exum.
The humble 19-year-old from Melbourne is no longer the mystery man he was heading into the NBA draft, but suddenly the player expected to step up for the Australian Boomers at this year’s World Cup in the absence of the injured Patty Mills.
Shoulder surgery to the NBA championship winner will place extra responsibility on Exum, his back-court running mate Matthew Dellavedova and European title winner Joe Ingles to drive the Boomers to success.
If Exum was feeling any pressure, you would never know it.
Perhaps it’s because he spent three years at the AIS, so this 17-player camp in Canberra is as much a second homecoming as it is a selection camp.
Exum is a certainty to have his name read out by Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis on Monday morning when the squad is cut to 12 players.
The last time the Boomers were in the national capital, Exum played only sparse minutes in the Oceania qualifying series against New Zealand.
That is certain to change as Exum fills the void left by San Antonio Spurs livewire Mills.
”Patty’s obviously a huge deal to this team and it’s going to be tough losing him, but hopefully that gives me a chance to step up and have a bigger role in the team,” Exum said.
”Me and Delly have talked about it and Joey as well, just about stepping up and taking up a bigger role.
“Last year I was looking at going to college and then just to see how far I’ve gone from there in a year’s time is amazing.”
Exum has just returned from the US where he played for Utah Jazz in the Summer League after signing a $13 million, four-year deal when taken with the fifth pick in the draft.
“It was tough, we had training camp before so I had a bit of training before getting on the court,” Exum said.
“The way I look at it is that the summer league was the pro, amateur thing and the next step is the World Cup and then it’s the NBA season.
”Just taking it one step at a time and developing into the NBA season.”
Dellavedova is just as excited to return to the Boomers after an impressive rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Having been undrafted, Dellavedova earnt his way on to the roster and now faces the prospect of playing alongside superstar LeBron James.
The contrast between the pair’s pay packets is startling.
Dellavedova is waiting for the Cavaliers to pick up the second year of his contract worth $816,482, while James will pocket just over $20 million for the upcoming season.
”It’s going to be a great opportunity to learn from the best player in the world and see how hard he works,” Dellavedova said.
”We didn’t make the playoffs and then you get LeBron and the expectations definitely go up.
”As a team, we’re going to embrace that and see what we can do.
“There’s nothing better than playing for your country.
”It hurts not having Patty, but we’re still confident we can do something special.”
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