From Metro’s red and blue to Boomer’s green and gold, alum Mark Worthington donned Australia’s colors and took to the basketball court in his second Olympic appearance.
Worthington celebrated his 29th birthday during the London 2012 games, but he didn’t get his wish for a medal when Team USA blew out Worthington’s candles, wrapping up a 119-86 loss.
Worthington shared his thoughts on his experiences as a Roadrunner, a pro basketball player overseas, and as an Olympian.
AF: Why did you decide to attend college at Metro?
MW: I feel like it was a real opportunity given to me. I wasn’t good enough to attend the Australian Institute of Sports for basketball and coach Dunlap contacted me and asked if I had any interest in going to college. I had never thought about it and looking back now it was probably one of the best decisions I made in my life.
AF: Tell me about your first season at Metro and being a part of the team winning its second consecutive NCAA Division II championship.
MW: As a freshman I was sort of overwhelmed with everything going on. I had no idea what it took to get to the top and win a national championship. I think maybe as a freshman I took it for granted, but looking back now I understand what it takes to win a national championship. I would have to say that I was very fortunate and very blessed to play with such a fantastic team.
AF: What was the best thing about being on that team with those players?
MW: I had a great experience. I had a lot of fun and I made a lot of friends on that team. Luke Kendall is still my best friend to this day, and he is actually the godfather to my oldest child. We still talk and keep in contact and he will be one of my best mates for life.
AF: Tell me about your senior year and what it felt like to win the National Player of the Year award.
MW: It was a pretty surreal experience to be named player of the year. In my four years at Metro, I was very fortunate, winning a national championship, going to the Sweet Sixteen, and then being named player of the year. It was a pretty big achievement.
AF: You seemed to take that momentum into your first year with the Sydney Kings back in Australia. How did it feel to win rookie of the year your first year in the pros?
MW: I was very fortunate going to a team that was coming off of three straight championships and to be able to start for that team. To go on to win rookie of the year was a huge honor. It was just that I was playing for a very, very good team and fortunately I was able to fit into a team that helped me a little bit.
AF: What has it been like to be on Australia’s national team?
BW: I have been playing on the Australian national team since I left college. I’ve been with this team for quite some time now. Honestly, to go to two Olympics and win two world championships is a huge honor. As anyone will tell you, whenever you get to represent your country at any level, at any time, is a huge honor. For me to be able to do this for the better part of a decade is really very special to me.
AF: Did you always aspire to represent your country in the Olympics?
MW: As a kid, you always want to go to the Olympics. It is one of those surreal moments in life and I still remember the Beijing opening ceremony. The biggest distraction during the Olympics is the Olympics itself. You walk around and you see athletes like Serena Williams, Usain Bolt, you see these people walking around as your peers and it’s quite mind-blowing. It’s definitely no different here in London. I still get a bit star-struck with some of the people I have met and have had photos with. You can’t help but get a little lost in the moment, where you are at, and know that you are there to represent your country and to be on the same court and play against some of the players I have been able to play against.
AF: How was this Olympic experience different than in Beijing?
MW: I wasn’t as much of a kid-in-a-candy-store this time because I knew what to expect. I think I have been able to enjoy it a lot more this time and understand how great it is to be able to represent your country at the Olympics. I am not as in awe with the people I am playing against now. Who would’ve thought, eight years ago, that a kid from Metro State would be guarding LeBron James or Kobe Bryant? It’s one of those things at first I was in awe about but this time I just love playing against these guys and I love the challenge. I hope that the people I know in Denver and went to school with get to enjoy it as well.
AF: Can you compare your Olympic games against the U.S.? Your stats were better in Beijing than the game in London. Do you think the caliber of athletes you played was higher this time?
MW: This U.S. team was very reliant on the three-point shot and they shot it very well. I think Kobe had been getting a lot of criticism in the media for how he has played here in London, so he came out and simply destroyed us with that shot in the second half. I think Kobe put on one of the great shooting displays of the Olympics.
AF: What kind of strategy did you have for the game against the U.S.?
MW: Don’t get dunked on by LeBron or Kobe. Don’t be a highlight for Sportscenter. Really, you just have to go in with the realization of who you are playing and treat them as humans. With LeBron you try and make him be more of a jump shooter rather than a driver. And with Kobe, you hope that he’s having an off night – neither one of those two had an off night against us. It was a tough job to be able to defend them.
AF: What is next for you since the Gold Coast Blaze team has disbanded?
MW: I knew that was coming up so I signed with Radnički and I will be moving to Serbia this year to play. I am ready for that challenge, and going to Europe to play is going to be exciting.