Former Saint Mary's College star Daniel Kickert is well aware of the challenge that faces his countrymen Patrick Mills and Matthew Dellavedova when their Australian men's basketball team takes on Team USA in the Olympic quarterfinals.
"It'll be a tough game," Kickert said Tuesday. "But I'm confident in our guys."
Of course, Kickert has a vested interest. A member of the Australian national team who narrowly missed out on making the Olympic squad, Kickert is Saint Mary's career leader in points scored with 1,874. He'll be watching closely as fellow Gaels Mills and Dellavedova try to pull the upset of the London Olympics on Wednesday at 2:15 p.m.
"We have to try to take away their transition offense and their fast break offense," Kickert said. "It's kind of hard to stop LeBron and Kevin Durant from breaking out because there's no one in the world that can stay with them."
If Australia is going to shock the world's top team, it will again need its Saint Mary's contingent to lead the way.
After a slow start, Mills has begun to heat up for the Aussies. Through five games, he is tied for the tournament lead in scoring with Spain's Pau Gasol at 20.6 points per game. He scored 39 points in a 106-75 win over Great Britain on Saturday, then hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to help Australia beat Russia 82-80 on Monday.
"We have no choice. We have to believe that we can win," Mills told Agence France-Presse. "We're going into the next game with all we've got. Going into the quarterfinals and going against the United States, it's amazing to me."
Mills' play hasn't surprised the world. A reserve for Portland before the lockout, Mills went to China to play during the lockout. After a leg injury and a contract dispute, Mills returned to the U.S. and landed a job with San Antonio. Spurs assistant Brett Brown is the head coach of Australia's national team.
"Patty's a fantastic young player," Team USA star Kobe Bryant told Bay Area News Group's Karl Mondon. "He has a bright future and he's been playing extremely well in this tournament."
Dellavedova has also impressed on the world stage. He has started alongside Mills in the backcourt and leads the Australian team in 3-point percentage (41.2) and assists per game (4.6). He scored 10 in the win over Russia.
The reigning West Coast Conference player of the year, Dellavedova still has a year left in Moraga, with his senior season waiting after the Olympics conclude. After a summer spent against the likes of Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, Dellavedova will return to campus ready for one more season with the Gaels.
"He's easily the most unfazed person I've ever seen at his age," Kickert said. "Six rebounds, seven assists and double digit points against Russia, against some of the best players in the world. That leadership that he brings and that stability is just as valuable as putting up 30 points."