REGENSBURG (David Hein’s Eye on the Future) – The New Zealand NBL regular season came to an end this past weekend and with it closed off an impressive first season as a professional for Reuben Te Rangi – one of the Kiwis’ biggest hopes for the future.
Despite being just 17 years old, Te Rangi averaged 7.9 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 44 percent from long range in 15 games for the Harbour Heat of Auckland.
While he did struggle down the stretch with just nine total points in the final four games, he did average 12.8 over a five-game stretch between late March and early May, which included his two top performances - a 19-point showing against Bay Hawks and 18 points on 6-of-6 three-point shooting against Southland Sharks.
Te Rangi was also the star performer for New Zealand’s team at the 2012 Albert Schweitzer Tournament (AST) played in Mannheim, Germany in April. He did not shoot well – hitting just 23 percent of his shots – but he was the team’s third leading scorer with 8.7 points and was tops in rebounds with 5.7 boards per game to go along with 1.2 assists and 1.0 steals.
It was actually the second time Te Rangi appeared at the highly-acclaimed Under-18 tournament, playing at the 2010 AST as a 15-year-old when he averaged 7.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.5 steals.
“Reuben came with us in 2010 as a 15-year-old. So he knew what he was coming for. The belief was that he can play at this level, and Ruben can definitely play at this level. And he believed that he can play at this level,” said New Zealand U18 coach Deslee Wrathall.
“For him it was another step into leadership. He was the captain and he was learning to be a leader.”
Te Rangi definitely learned from his first time in Germany.
“I felt last time I came here I had a chip on my shoulder because I was a young player here. I just worked my butt off on defense. And it helped me coming back this year because I found that I had to play defense to get my offense game to come to me,” said Te Rangi, who was disappointed New Zealand could not get a victory in at the 2012 AST.
However, the Manurewa native is actually a world champion. He was a part of the New Zealand team that shocked the basketball community by winning the inaugural 3x3 Youth World Championship last September in Rimini, Italy.
“To take the gold was pretty big because everyone coming into the tournament was shrugging us off like we were just plain old New Zealand. And to win it was like being on top of the world,” said Te Rangi.
The one disappointment for Te Rangi and his teammates was that the title received very little attention back home.
“It kind of went under because the rugby World Cup was going on in New Zealand (which was won by New Zealand). But we took the experience and the gold medal and just put it to our confidence.”
That confidence will be crucial for New Zealand’s chances this summer when they take on arch rivals Australia in September for the best-of-three series qualifiers for the 2013 U19 World Championship.
“I think it will be a good match-up if we just tweak up our weak aspects of our game. The fire we will have when we go to play Australia will make it a good game,” said Te Rangi.
“We definitely want to get at least one win but we just want to play good basketball on both sides of the court.”
Ultimately Te Rangi is looking to play basketball in the United States at a college or university.
“That’s what I strive for every day. That’s what I work hard for. I’m just trying to get my name out there and show everyone what I got,” said the 2.01m forward, who says he would like to study something around sports – perhaps a degree in physical education to become a PE teacher.
“I just want to go to a small school that I can relate to and I can just play basketball at I guess. Not ride the bench but I can get a few minutes.”
If Te Rangi keeps working as hard as he has until now, he will definitely get more than a few minutes – and may one day soon be playing for the Kiwis senior team.
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