Being a young veteran might sound contradictory but that sums up Reuben TeRangi as the 22-year-old Kiwi approaches the end of his first season with the Brisbane Bullets.
A move which he has no doubt, is the best decision he’s made in his career.
The first 103 NBL games of TeRangi’s career were with his local New Zealand Breakers where he began as a development player in the 2012/13 championship season before earning a full contract the following campaign and being part of the 2015 title.
So he was already a 100-plus game, two-time championship winner when he signed with the Bullets on their return to the league this season, despite being just 21 years of age.
Not only that, but he knew head coach Andrej Lemanis, assistant coach CJ Bruton and general manager Richard Clarke well from their shared time at the Breakers.
While it was a significant move for TeRangi to leave home across the ditch and up to Brisbane, those familiar faces at the Bullets helped him see a real future in the decision.
It also challenged him and took him out of his comfort zone of playing at home, and he couldn’t be happier with the move.
“It was unknown territory for me and I might have needed a bit of change, which is good for me. It did challenge me to come over here and move away from my family, but the boys on the team have made it easy and they are a good bunch of dudes,” TeRangi said.
“Living away from home, I have found that I have had a lot more time to spend on perfecting my craft. I think it has bettered my career in terms of being over here and getting to focus solely on what the task at hand is.”
Not only were the Bullets a completely new group on their return to the NBL this season, but it was made up of players that TeRangi had grown accustomed to playing against.
In particular, the rivalry with the Breakers and Perth Wildcats has become a storied one with the two clubs sharing the last seven NBL championships.
That meant TeRangi was nervous how he would click with Jermaine Beal and Tom Jervis, but he quickly realised he had nothing to worry about and has grown especially close with big man Jervis.
“It was weird at the start because they were the first two guys I liked. Tommy is probably the nicest guy in the team and it was weird coming together because when they were at the Wildcats and I was at the Breakers, I thought they might be the hardest guys for me to like,” he said.
“But they are actually the ones I got to know the quickest. But it’s the same with the whole team, they are all really good blokes and already I’m saying bloke like I am an Australian so it’s catching on. It’s been fun settling in and getting to know a new group of guys.”
While it’s a big move to change countries and move away from home to play as a young man, TeRangi always knew that moving to the Bullets to rejoin Lemanis, Bruton and Clarke was going to end positively for him.
“Coming over here, I knew a few people and they seemed to have something that I really liked,” TeRangi said.
“I also liked the whole new team aspect and getting a new bunch of guys together. They all seem like nice blokes so that was a determining factor in coming over.”
TeRangi got his start under Lemanis when in New Zealand, with Bruton his teammate, and Clarke running the club. He knew the systems in place on and off the floor would suit him perfectly in Brisbane.
“I know the systems that Dre runs and I really enjoyed them. I know how CJ and Rich work so it was kind of an easy transition to go from the Breakers to the Bullets given I knew those guys. It was a big determining factor in why I picked the Bullets,” he said.
“He (Lemanis) is an amazing coach and he brings the best out of everyone. It’s hard to say but I think he can get the best out of me and I like the way he does things. When a player finds that with their coach, they are at their happiest with basketball.”
Speaking of the Breakers, it was a little strange for TeRangi to take them on four times this season while wearing a Bullets singlet, particularly going back to Auckland, but he enjoyed the challenge at the same time.
Old friend and young point guard Shea Ili was a different experience altogether, though, given their long history as teammates even out of the NBL.
“It was weird, but cool at the same time to see all the old faces that I used to play with again. Shea Ili was the weirdest one to play against. I grew up playing with him and we’ve known each other basically our whole lives, and we’ve been pretty close for a long time,” TeRangi said.
“We’ve always been on the same team growing up so it was weird being on the opposite side of him but after the game we had a few jokes and laughs about it so it was cool seeing him again and that he’s getting some minutes.”
Moving away from friends and family has taken time to adjust to for TeRangi, but having nothing to take his attention away from basketball is something he also sees as a positive. And overall, he can’t complain at all about life in Brisbane and sees no reason why he can’t remain for a long time to come.
“Being away from my family is the toughest part and not having them just up the road, and being able to go see them all the time and get a home cooked meal from mum. But I Facetime them enough and it’s kind of been refreshing having some me time to focus a lot on my basketball,” TeRangi said.
“I think it’s an amazing little city and the fans definitely get behind us, and there’s a lot of love around the basketball here in Brisbane. I’d love to stick around and continue to better my basketball.”