Brisbane Bullets young gun Tamuri Wigness hopes to follow in the footsteps of basketball idols Nathan Jawai and Patty Mills as he sets out to make his mark in his debut NBL season.
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Wigness signed a two-year-deal with the Bullets in July after being a member of the NBA Global Academy in Canberra for the last three years.
He averaged 11.7 points, 4.0 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game with the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence in NBL1 in 2019, and brings immense talent and potential to the NBL.
Growing up in Cairns with a Torres Strait Islander mother and Gambian father, Wigness is looking to inspire the next generation of Indigenous talent as he begins his career at the elite level of the sport.
“You always take pride in your culture,” Wigness told SBS Sport.
“The level that I’m at now, for me to encourage young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players to represent their culture. I’m really strong on my identity, on my dad’s side and my mum’s side.”
The 18-year-old expressed his admiration for Indigenous star Patty Mills and the work he has done off the court by using his platform to inspire young players.
“Patty has done a great job,” Wigness said.
“And I look up to him for it, not just on the court but off the court as well for what he’s doing, not even for Torres Strait people, but for Australian people in general.
Wigness also cited fellow Torres Strait Islander player Nathan Jawai, who he shares a close personal and cultural connection with, as a major role model for him once he made basketball his focus.
Jawai has worked with Wigness to help the young guard make the most of his talents but also how to handle life as an athlete.
“Growing up, I was more into football,” Wigness revealed.
“I came into basketball late during high school, I knew about Nate (Jawai) and saw what he did for our people and how he was drafted in the NBA.
“He’s been a great role model for me,” Wigness said.
“He’s always checking up on me and asking how I’ve been. Nate’s been a great role model, not just on the court but more off the court.”
Revealing he was hampered with an injury at the beginning of the offseason, Wigness has since hit the ground running since and has enjoyed his first NBL preseason.
“It’s been really good,” Wigness said.
“Knowing the style of play for each player as a point guard… just transitioning into it, it’s been good. And the coaching staff, with Drej (Andrej Lemanis) it’s been great.”
Wigness identified the NBA as his future career goal and marked his intention to slot into the Bullets system.
However, it is NBL Rookie of the Year honours which is driving Wigness to deliver this season.
“For sure, NBA’s the goal at the end of the day,” Wigness said.
“But just doing my part for the team and doing the little things, to just come in and bring the energy off the bench.
“But Rookie of the Year’s definitely a main goal for me this year as well.”
Wigness will get his first chance to impress on January 16 when the Bullets tip off their season at home against the Sydney Kings.
Article credit to SBS, authored by Finn Potter
Image courtesy of FIBA.basketball