Reuben Te Rangi soars to top of Sharks' ratings
Eighteen-year-old Reuben Te Rangi announced himself loudly and clearly to Southland last Friday night in Invercargill.
Those who keep a close eye on New Zealand basketball would have been aware of the Breakers development player's abilities, however, those who turned up to the Sharks' first home game with only a passing interest were brought up to speed in double-quick time.
He scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the 93-74 win over Super City Rangers.
It was one particular moment that really had the 1500-odd crowd wanting to know more about the teenage recruit.
After receiving a long pass from Luke Martin, in one motion Te Rangi leapt to haul it in one-handed and make a dunk, bringing the home crowd into the game.
It seemed from then on that the Southland Sharks had found themselves with a fan favourite.
Te Rangi said he "was like a little kid in a candy shop" getting the opportunity for extended minutes for the Sharks in game one after mainly watching on with the Breakers as a development player during the Australian National Basketball League season.
However, the youngster, who hails from Auckland, knows his next assignment in front of his new home crowd is going to be tougher and he will need to raise the bar even higher.
The Sharks will take on competition favourites, the Wellington Saints, in Invercargill tomorrow.
The Pero Cameron-coached Wellington side has a roster full of quality and experience, which includes a couple of Te Rangi's Breakers mates in the form of Dillon Boucher and Corey Webster.
"It's definitely exciting, I'm always up for a challenge. I'll give them a run for their money," he said as the banter starts in the leadup.
Tomorrow morning, Te Rangi, as well as other Sharks players Leon Henry and Morgan Natanahira, will travel on the same flight from Auckland to Invercargill with Boucher and Webster.
The five players will attend the Breakers awards dinner tonight before leaving at 6am tomorrow to be in Invercargill at 10am in time for the game, which starts at 1pm.
Henry's inclusion in the Sharks setup that won well against the Rangers before losing to Hawke's Bay will be important tomorrow.
"It will be good to get another big body into the lineup. We're not the biggest team.
"He's a real handy tool, he can shoot, he's good with the ball and he's pretty quick as well, he can play some small and just get out and run as well."
Te Rangi had just one week in Invercargill last week before heading back to Auckland but in that short time he liked what he saw.
"I'm loving it. It's a nice, small town. Everybody is friendly. It's a good community and I love the [Southland Basketball] Association."
AT A GLANCE
- Captain of the 2012 Junior Tall Blacks, Reuben Te Rangi was voted New Zealand National Basketball League Rookie of the Year after an eye-catching season with the Harbour Heat
- In 2011, Te Rangi was a member of the New Zealand 3on3 Youth World Championship-winning team in Rimini, Italy
- At just 18, this will be his first season as a Breakers Development Player
- © Fairfax NZ News