Andrew Bogut spent his last night at home for a while doing what many other 21-year-olds would do -- taking advantage of some of his mother's cooking.
"Some pasta with family, a nice meal," Bogut said over the phone from his hometown of Melbourne, just before the Milwaukee Bucks center joined his Australian teammates to begin final training ahead of the world basketball championships in Japan beginning Aug. 19.
The NBA's No. 1 draft pick last year, Bogut joined the Bucks and had a strong first season in Milwaukee, being named on the league's all-rookie team and averaging 9.4 points and seven rebounds a game.
"A roller coaster, good times, bad times, something to work on for next year," Bogut says of his first NBA season.
Four years ago, Bogut was on an Australian Institute of Sport scholarship in Canberra when the last world titles were held in Indianapolis, Indiana.
In 2003, after securing a scholarship from US collegiate team Utah, he led Australia to the world junior championship title, beating the US in the final. A year later, he was at the Athens 2004 Olympics.
Australia has never finished better than fifth at the world titles. It didn't qualify from the region in 2002, beaten by New Zealand, which finished a surprising fourth in Indianapolis.
"We've got some injuries, a lot of question marks, but we could surprise some people in Japan," Bogut says. He was one of only four players with world championship or Olympic experience named this week to Australia's 12-man roster.
Initially staged in 1950 in Argentina, the world championships are held every four years in between the Olympics. This year, for the first time, the championships will feature 24 teams in four six-team groups in Japan. It's first time the event has been held in Asia since Manila in 1978.
Two-time defending champion Serbia has been drawn in Group A at Sendai and playing with 2004 Olympic champion Argentina, France, Venezuela, Nigeria and Lebanon.
At Hiroshima, Germany, Japan, Angola, Panama, Spain and New Zealand will make up Group B. Brazil, Australia, Greece, Qatar, Turkey and Lithuania compete in tough Group C at Hamamatsu, while the US plays in Group D at Sapporo with Puerto Rico, Slovenia, Senegal, China and Italy.
Each team plays the others in its group in the round-robin, with the top four teams in each group qualifying for round of 16 matches on Aug. 26-27. The final is set for Sept. 3.
At the other end of the expectation scale, one outfit with a point to prove will be the US. The US "Dream Team" conquered all at the 1992 Barcelona Games when NBA players appeared for the US at the Olympics for the first time.
At the 2002 worlds, the US lost to Argentina in the preliminary round and in the semifinals against eventual winner Yugoslavia.
LeBron James was among those named to the 15-man US squad bidding to make amends. But rather than single out star players, US head coach Mike Krzyzewski said his world championship team was all about teamwork.