The Aussie rules-college hoops connection

Ben Dowdell is taking a unique path after graduation, going from rugged Santa Clara starting forward to Australian rules football prospect with the Adelaide Crows.

Football Operations General Manager Phil Harper said Dowdell, who dabbled in football as a child, would be a "project" player for the club.

"Ben's manager Paul Bell from MVP Sports has alerted us to quite a few basketballers, who have contemplated turning their hand to football," Harper said.

"To date we haven’t committed to any, but after a couple of sessions with our club’s development coaches Ben impressed enough for us to commit to him for season 2012.

"We would like our members and supporters to understand that this is a project with someone with great athletic ability, but a very minimal football background and that patience with Ben will be a key ingredient in this project."

No one is suggesting LeBron James look into this as an alternative during the NBA lockout, but as Australian basketball players continue to flock to the United States to play in college, there is bound to be some overlap with the Australian rules football culture that is popular Down Under. It's really no different than top American athletes who are able to find success in both basketball and football. Like in basketball, there is no padding is Aussie rules, and it requires athleticism and toughness.

New Mexico freshman Hugh Greenwood, who like Dowdell previously attended the Australian Institute of Sport, is competing for a starting job with the Lobos and was named the Mountain West's preseason freshman of the year. In fact, he told reporters last week he'll be bringing an Aussie rules influence to his game.

"I like to play physical, coming from international basketball," Greenwood said. "I like to play physical and play hard, and I've got an Australian rules football background, so coming from that, it's always going to be physical, and it's going to be tough."