Brisbane Bullets Development Players, Tom Fullarton and Tyrell Harrison, are being encouraged to dream the dream.
Thrilled to have secured the promising Queensland duo for the 2017-18 NBL season, head coach Andrej Lemanis believes both have the potential to one day become NBA players.
“Tom and Tyrell are exciting young talents, we’re really excited about both of them,” Lemanis said.
“That’s why we’ve signed them as development players… we see exciting futures for them.”
Fullarton, an 18-year-old swingman from the Sunshine Coast, has been on the radar for a while. He has developed his game at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence over the last couple of years and has captained Australia at the junior level.
Harrison, meanwhile, has followed a different path; ‘discovered’ by assistant coach Mick Downer playing school hoops for John Paul College in Logan. The 17-year-old joined Fullarton as part of the Bullets training squad last season before signing on for NBL18.
Drawing on his vast international experience, Lemanis has encouraged the youngsters to set their goals sky high.
“I think both have an opportunity to go on and have a crack at the NBA,” Lemanis stated.
“I’ve been around a couple of guys who have made it to the NBA now… on pure athleticism and work ethic, they’ve got something there.”
For the Bullets, the addition of Fullarton and Harrison reflects the club’s mission to invest in South-East Queensland’s significant talent pool. It also speaks to the culture of development that Lemanis and his staff have quickly established within the program.
After all, these are prospects for whom the pull towards the US College system was very, very real.
Fullarton, for example, was swamped with recruiting letters after balling out at last year’s Under-17 World Champs. The 6-foot-7 teen paid visits to his top three – Saint Mary’s, Valparaiso and the University of Hawaii – while considering the possibility of an NBL future with the Bullets.
“I was really in two minds; I didn’t know which pathway I wanted to take,” he said.
“Once I did my visits I spoke to my family and my inner circle and worked out which would be best for me.
“There were a lot of factors involved and ultimately I decided I wanted to play in the NBL and stay with Brisbane. I’m happy I made that decision.”
In the end, ‘trust’ was an important factor.
“I really believe that Andrej and his coaching staff – in fact everybody at the Bullets – can help me progress with my career and ultimately get to my full potential,” Fullarton added.
Truth is, it wasn’t only NCAA programs that were heavily recruiting Fullarton over the past 12 months. The Aussie Rules sharks were circling as well.
“Every AFL club wanted this kid but he’s chosen to come and play basketball and be a Brisbane Bullet. That’s a fantastic story for basketball,” Lemanis said.
“Why? Because he’s got international opportunities and he enjoys the sport. He sees himself being able to play for Australia, play Olympic Games, all that sort of stuff.”
Fullarton also drew inspiration from former Adelaide 36ers import, Terrance Ferguson; the high school phenom who turned his back on the NCAA last year to play in the NBL. Ferguson is expected to be selected in the first round of this month’s NBA Draft.
“It’s pretty cool what he did, for him to come over here and progress to the NBA through the NBL; showing that that’s a pathway for younger players,” Fullarton said.
“I’m sure it’s inspired many other people like me. It gives me belief that it can be done.”
For Harrison, a relative newcomer to the sport, it has been a steep learning curve since taking up the chance to train with the Bullets late last year. Plucked out of virtual obscurity by assistant coach Mick Downer, Harrison has since participated in Basketball Australia’s 2017 Australian Development Camp and played well at this year’s Under-20 Australian Junior Championships.
“For his size, Tyrell handles the ball well and shoots the ball well. He’s also an exceptional learner in terms of his will to listen; he wants to apply, he wants to get better,” Lemanis said.
At 7-feet, and with impressive bounce and timing, Harrison also displays exciting potential as a rim-protector.
“Everybody goes up and suddenly Tyrell’s throwing that thing into the third row. That catches your attention!” Lemanis said.
“He can really be a presence at that end of the floor as he continues to evolve and understand defensive team concepts and how he can be effective. I think he can be a real presence protecting the rim for us over time.”
The potential is there but the teenager’s taking nothing for granted, focused on working hard to make the most of his opportunities.
“Mick (Downer) opened this door up for me to be involved at the NBL level and, hopefully, that will open up another door in a couple of years, to try to get into the NBA. For me, that’s huge,” Harrison said.
“I’m pretty new to basketball and there are lot of things that I haven’t learned yet. I need to get bigger and stronger and I really want to improve my playing IQ.”
It’s that kind of attitude – that genuine desire to learn – that has Harrison fast-tracking his development and, according to Downer, has the Bullets veterans embracing him.
It’s a trait shared by Fullarton, who has a crystal clear perspective on his role this season.
“I think I can just try and challenge guys on the court, just bring my best effort and give it one hundred percent each day,” Fullarton said.
“Each day I’m trying to push guys with my work ethic and show them how hard I’m going to work and try and make them better while I’m getting better as well. I think it will work both ways.”
That, in a nutshell, is what it’s all about. When the daily grind pays off with improvement, everybody wins.
“A great outcome for us would see Fullarton and Harrison staying here and playing for the Bullets for the next fifteen years and helping us win championships,” Lemanis said.
“But another great outcome for us would be if those guys go on to the NBA.
“We’re invested in them becoming better players.”