Reuben Te Rangi first to sign on for the Southland Sharks' 2018 NBL title quest
The Southland Sharks have confirmed the first piece of its 2018 New Zealand National Basketball League roster with the announcement of Reuben Te Rangi as its first player signing for next season.
Te Rangi's re-signing is a massive coup for the Sharks as they look to go one better in 2018 after this year being beaten by the Wellington Saints in the NBL final.
Te Rangi returned to the Shark's setup last season after a two-year absence playing for the Super City Rangers and slotted back into the Southland setup with ease.
He finished the year as one of the Sharks' top performers, leading the team in per game points (14.8), steals (1.1) and minutes (30.7) and in the top four for rebounds (4.8) and assists (3.4).
That consistency saw him named Tall Blacks captain for the first time for the FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon in August.
Te Rangi, who will turn 23 on Saturday, is currently in the United States with his Australian National Basketball League team the Brisbane Bullets.
The Bullets are preparing to face the NBA's Phoenix Suns this weekend.
Southland Sharks' general manager Jill Bolger said it was no coincidence Te Rangi was the first to ink a deal for 2018.
"We are all so proud of all that Reuben has achieved over the past 12 months. He is, without doubt, a leader on our team and to watch him blossom with that extra responsibility as both a player and a man for the Sharks and the Tall Blacks over the last year is a real credit to both him and his family," Bolger said.
Likewise, Sharks coach Judd Flavell was delighted to confirm Te Rangi for what will be his fourth season in Invercargill.
"I saw a huge step-up in the way Reubs approached games and practice last season and the leadership he brought. You could see he was someone who was very focused and knew what he wanted which, from a coach's perspective, is the perfect athlete to take in and work with."
"He's a natural leader. You saw him taking that leadership within the Tall Blacks programme and hopefully with the Bullets he can continue to find his grove in his second season there. He brings to the table that new level of professionalism now with the competitiveness that he's always had," Flavell said.
Te Rangi's signing may start a trend for the Sharks as the organisation looks to try to retain the bulk of the 2017 roster for the 2018 season.
The squad highlighted they can match it with most in the competition and it was only a very powerful Wellington outfit which stood in front them and the title.
The impressive progress of several Sharks players is likely to ensure those players in demand from other teams, which could well provide some challenges for Southland.
Added to the recruiting intrigue this season in the increase in imports NBL players have been able to play.
Previously it has been two but this season teams can hunt offshore for up to three players.
The 2018 New Zealand National Basketball League features eight teams, including the reinstated Manawatu Jets and will commence on April 26, a later start due to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
A final draw is still to be released with nine games expected to be scheduled for ILT Stadium Southland during the season.