ASU's Australian Connection

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Wednesday Jan. 28, 2009

AUGUSTA,Ga--G'day mate....yes, it's a common phrase used in Australia. It's also used a fair amount around the Augusta State basketball team. This year, a quarter of the team hails from the land down under.

"One of my friends that played under Dip (Metress) at Belmont Abbey said why don't I go over to the states," said Ben Madgen.

"Cameron Tovey played here for one year and ended up playing professional back at home. He was real close with Dip (Metress) and that's how we all ended up getting in contact," said Greg Hire.

"I sent out a lot of emails to a bunch of different schools. Robbie McKinley is also from Sydney, our assistant coach," added Tom Wright.

Three players and three different cities in Australia, all now playing for Augusta State. Your geography lesson, only about 10,000 miles and another hemisphere separate the two countries.

"Birthdays, Australia day, they're the worst," added Hire. "It can get pretty lonely at times."

They came for the basketball even though Greg Hire nearly decided on the national past time of Australia, Austrialian rules football.

"I almost had a better prospect chance for playing professional football," added Hire. "But I went the basketball route."

"I wanted to play Aussie rules football too but my uncles had played Aussie rules and my dad and they can hardly walk now with their knees and stuff," said Madgen. "My mom and my nanna tried to talk me into playing basketball."

OK, how about the accents, you know these guys get ribbed about it all the time. Even the Crocodile Dundee stereotypes, these boys eat it up.

"Everyone thinks that's what Australia is like," said Wright, now a sophomore. "I can tell anything to anyone and they'll believe it. Like I have a pet kangaroo and that I had some crazy jobs back home."

"I mean I love it at times and sometimes it just gets funny," said Hire. "You just make up stories about kangaroos and crocodiles and people go along with it, so it's all good fun."

Then there's the food. They're not used to the fried chicken or fast food, but another famous fare.

"The famous one is vegemite," said Madgen. "It's like this spread and no one else likes it except for me, Greg and Tom and Robbie. Everyone else thinks it's disgusting but we grew up on it."

What is it?

"It's like a spread, like peanut butter some, but it looks really bad and it doesn't taste good if you haven't been growing up on it. I'll have to get you to try some!"

Not only are there three players from Australia, so too is assistant coach Robbie McKinlay. As a matter of fact, five other Aussies have played for the Jags in the past decade.

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