No Worries Mate, Redhage Makes Aussie Team

There will be several current and former Sun Devils participating in the 2008 Summer Olympics, but none took the path that ex-ASU basketball player Shawn Redhage did. The 6-8 forward has been staring in the Australian league for the past four seasons and received his citizenship earlier this year. After being selected to the Olympic team Redhage is on top of the world in the land down under.

Shawn Redhage played for Arizona State from 1999-2003 and averaged 7.5 ppg and 3.6 rpg. His 76 blocks are ninth-best in ASU history. He was a three-time Pac-10 All-Academic pick (2001-2003), and graduated last year with a construction science degree from ASU.

The last three years he's been playing for the NBL's Perth Wildcats and at the end of the 2007-08 regular season he was the league's fifth best scorer with 22.5 ppg. He also finished in top 20 in field goal percentage and in the top 10 foul shooting percentage category. Redhage has been his team's MVP for the past three seasons and was selected to the NBL All-Star team in 2008.

To counteract the 15-hour time difference between Arizona and Australia, Devils Digest conducted an email interview with Redhage to talk about his recent honor, his team's aspirations in the Beijing Olympics and being an Australian citizen.

Devils Digest: Shawn, congratulations on being selected to the Australian Olympic team. How many days ago did you find out about your inclusion and did it catch you by surprise?

Shawn Redhage: "I found out on July 5th while we were playing a tournament in Athens, Greece. I had a good feeling that I was going to be included at that point as they had already cut about ten guys from the squad and they only had one more player to cut to go before they announced the Olympic squad of 12 that would compete at Beijing. Going into the try-outs I was pretty unsure what was going to happen because I was so new to the team and the system in which they play. From day one the coach and the players have really been a huge help and I think that has helped me pick things up pretty fast."

DD: Can you talk about the Australian Olympic Team and how you feel it will do in Beijing? What are the country's expectations of the team?

SR: "I think we have a great shot at a medal in Beijing. It is going to be a tough task to accomplish as Australia has never won a medal in Men's Basketball before at the Olympics. Our strength is with our big men in that we have three internationally recognized players in Andrew Bogut, David Anderson, and Matt Nielson. I think we have the talent to be able to do well but the question is can we gel in the short preparation time before the Olympics. Because of contract negotiation restrictions our best player Andrew Bogut will only have less than a month to train and prepare with the team. I think the expectations of us getting a medal at the Olympics back home are pretty small but I think that excites us as players as we believe that we can go over there and do something that no one expects. We are definitely going into these Olympics as underdogs and I think we will surprise a lot of people with our level of play come August."

DD: What are your personal expectations for playing time, etc.?

SR: "It is hard to say right now what playing time will be. For the past month now it has been a battle just to get named to the team by going through all the training camps and practice games. Now that the team has been named I think the coaches will start to form roles and expectations for each player and we will have a better understanding in a couple weeks of what to expect. For me it is an amazing honor to represent Australia so the role that I am given I will try and accept and do my best. I think one of the advantages I do have is that I have played many different roles during my basketball career so hopefully that will help me in this process."

DD: If you end up playing against Team USA in the later rounds of the Olympics, I'm sure it be just the most surreal experience for you…

SR:"It would be a great honor to be able to play against Team USA. To be able to play against guys you have watched and admired for so long and then be on the same court competing against each other would be an amazing experience. I know there would be quite of few nerves lining up against those guys but hopefully once the game started I would be able concentrate on just playing the game and competing."

DD: When you left ASU, what drew you to play in Australia? Not having a language barrier to contend with must have been very appealing…

SR:"While at ASU we took a foreign tour to Australia after my Freshman year for 10 days and I really enjoyed my time down there. I knew from that visit that if I ever got a chance to go back I would really consider it. I think the (lack of) language barrier was very appealing in that I have heard of a lot of guys struggling to cope with that in Europe."

DD: Can you talk about your playing career in Australia? It seems that things have gone well for you in just four years of playing there…

SR:"It has been a long road to get where I am at today. Coming out of ASU my dream was to continue to play basketball professionally and to just see where that took me. Unfortunately that was a lot harder than I had thought it was going to be initially. After six months of waiting the first job that was offered to me was with a second division team in Tasmania, Australia. At that point I had not even heard of Tasmania but I was willing to go there and give it a try. It ended up being a great situation and the first year we won the championship and I was MVP of the league which allowed me to get a job in the top league over here."

"The past three seasons I have been playing with the Perth Wildcats and it has been a perfect place to play which has allowed me to grow as a player and the team has been pretty successful. I think this past year was my best season which has really helped in my selection to the Olympic team. Looking back on the decision now I really think I made the right decision coming to Australia as I feel like my game has gotten a lot stronger each year from when I left ASU. When you are the import and your team relies on you to perform every single night you are forced to grow as a player and improve if you want to be successful."

DD: How would you compare the style of basketball in Australia to the college and the pro level in the U.S.?

SR: "I think there are definitely a lot of differences between the game over here and back in the states. This league in Australia tends to a smaller more agile league with a lot of free flowing basketball. The games tend to be high scoring with a lot of 3 pointers shots. You probably don't have as good of athletes over here but I think the skill level is pretty high with a lot great shooters. In the states I think the game tends to lean towards more one on one skills whereas here it is a lot more of a team free flowing concept. It takes a little time to get adjusted to the style over here which is why I think some imports can struggle at first to adapt."

DD: Was your decision to get an Australian citizenship driven by the opportunity to play for the Olympic team?

SR: "There were many factors that went into the decision but that was definitely one of the appeals in my decision. First and foremost my wife and I really enjoy the life that we have created in Australia. The lifestyle here and the people we have met really made the decision a pretty easy one. Becoming a citizen also allows my team the Perth Wildcats to become a better team by now opening up an import spot for someone else. The Olympics is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I think everyone that grows up playing sports would love a chance to one day represent your country on the biggest stage."

DD: Was your decision to get Australian citizenship a hard one to make in general?

SR: "No it was really an easy decision to make considering all the positive things and doors that opened up because of the decision. I did not have to give up my U.S. citizenship as Australia does not force you to give it up like some other countries do."

DD: Do you feel that you will live in Australia for the next several years, or is there still a strong desire to come back to the U.S. and possibly play in the NBA?

SR: "At this point in my career I can easily see myself finishing my career here in Australia and hopefully in Perth and that was key reason behind applying for citizenship. There is always that desire to play in NBA and you never know what will happen in the future so I am always holding out hope to one day play back in the states. I really do enjoy though where I am playing and living at the moment."

DD: Have you followed ASU basketball in the last few years and what are your thoughts about the season the Sun Devils had last year?

SR: "I still keep up with ASU and check how they are doing each year. Every now and then a game will be on TV over here which is fun to see. It is good to see ASU back and headed in the right direction. I was back in Nebraska during March madness this past year and ASU was pretty unfortunate not to be able to make the tournament. I think though they have a great shot at making the tournament this next year with a good mix of talent and experience. It is always going to be tough to make the tournament playing in a tough PAC-10 conference but I will definitely be watching closely to see how they do this year."

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