An Australian Olympic guard is breaking out in the NBA Finals for a second straight year.
Those who closely watched the London 2012 Games will have known about Matthew Dellavedova long before he scored 20 points in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night.
Dellavedova was the Australian men’s basketball team’s youngest player at the London Olympics. At 21, he started next to Patty Mills in the backcourt. Mills, with ties to watching Cathy Freeman, gained plenty of attention with the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals.
Dellavedova nearly made the Australian national team for the 2010 FIBA World Championship but was cut by Brett Brown, who now coaches the Philadelphia 76ers.
“To this day, he’s the single most difficult person I had to cut, and I have cut many, many, many players,” Brown said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “He was so passionate and determined to play for his country and worked so hard to earn that right, and I took it from him.”
Dellavedova, while playing for St. Mary’s College, helped Australia qualify for the 2012 Olympics in a winner-goes-to-London series with New Zealand in September 2011.
At the Olympics, the central Victoria native started all six games, averaged 7.3 points per game and set the screen that freed Mills to hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to beat Russia 82-80 in group play. Mills also played at St. Mary’s, before Dellavedova.
Dellavedova even faced future Cavs teammate LeBron James at the Olympics as the Aussies lost to the U.S. in the quarterfinals 119-86. A year later, Dellavedova went undrafted but signed with Cleveland before the 2013-14 season.
Will Dellavedova make a return to the Olympics next year?
He will likely have a large say in Australia’s qualification. The Aussies and New Zealand play another winner-goes-to-the-Olympics series in August, with the loser still having a shot at Rio at a last-chance global qualifying tournament next summer.