Basketball: Fed up with fourth place, Australia want podium spot at Olympics

The Australians finished fourth in 1988, 1996, 2000 and 2016, while also coming in fourth at the 2019 World Cup.
The Australians finished fourth in 1988, 1996, 2000 and 2016, while also coming in fourth at the 2019 World Cup.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Australia's men's basketball team are arguably the most successful outfit never to have won an Olympic Games medal, having finished fourth on four occasions, but for 2014 National Basketball Association (NBA) champion Patty Mills this run must end at the Tokyo Games.

The Australians finished fourth in 1988, 1996, 2000 and 2016, while also coming in fourth at the 2019 World Cup.

"The leadership group and other teammates have been through the fourth-placed finishes which have left an impact on us," Mills told reporters on Thursday (July 22).

"It has all helped in our preparation and our determination to overcome that hump and achieve something in Australian basketball history that has never been there before.

"The hunger is what stands out more than anything," said the 32-year-old Mills, who plays for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA.

The Australians kick off their race towards a medal with a preliminary round Group B match against Nigeria on Sunday. They also play Italy on July 28 and Germany three days later in the group.

"Our preparation has been a sprint," said Mills, who was part of the fourth-placed team in Rio five years ago as well as the 2019 World Cup.

"The majority of guys finishing their season when they did in the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Basketball League and in Europe as well," he said.

"For us to come together with a very short preparation is one thing, but we have done a good job of staying connected with each other throughout the year and focusing in on what we are trying to achieve here.

"Our environment throughout the team is different from what it has been. We are in a good place, a perfect place."

The United States are the favourites for the Olympic gold medal despite the NBA Finals having finished as recently as Wednesday and a rocky preparation, including a defeat to Australia.