True Grit: Passion and determination drives Isaih Tueta's return to the NBL

True Grit: Passionate, positive, determined and resilient through obstacles or challenges.

A true workhorse, this is point guard Isaih Tueta through and through.

The Pick and Roll recently spoke with him about his experiences with the NBL, his time in the QBL with USC Rip City, and his goals for the future.

Picked up as an injury replacement, Tueta played 23 National Basketball League games with the New Zealand Breakers (2016-2017) and Brisbane Bullets (2016-17, 2017-2018).

“As a kid growing up eating dinner while watching the NBL and dreaming of being there," explained Tueta. "Receiving that shot I went out there and showed that I belonged in the league.”

He pointed to the final year of his junior basketball that he sees as a founding cornerstone of his career.

“I always have to put up there winning the Under 18 State Championships with the Maroochydore Clippers. A group of guys who had been together since we were 12, and in our last year of juniors, we came together to take that out. It was huge! Growing up with your mates, playing basketball and being able to win that was a massive deal for us and meant a lot,” he recalls.

He confidently states that the journey for him is not over and he is working hard to return to the NBL.

“The last two or three years have been massive for me, trying to crack into that league, and now I am trying to show that I still have what it takes to make roster,” Tueta added.

The star guard appears heavily in the QBL box scores with assists and his overall contribution to his team. Yet for Tueta, his performance - and what he provides his team - means more than just statistics.

“It’s good that I am getting those assists and numbers, but for my career, for whatever team I’m on, the most important thing for me is the stuff that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. I hope that all helps me gain attention from coaches,” he states.

Being captain is something that means a lot to him, but he sees is role in the team as more than a c next to his name.

“I have always played the same regardless of having that position or not," said Tueta. "For me it’s about doing everything I can for my team, whether it’s on the practice court or during a game. That’s communication, defense and all the little things combined towards winning games.

"I am able to score points, able to assist my team mates, able to penetrate. I always lead by example, focus on my level of play rather then tell people what to do. I have figured out that’s a far better way to captain and do what you would want your teammates to do for you. Hold yourself accountable no matter when you step onto the court."

Last season, Rip City dropped out of the quarterfinals against Cairns, but they have one goal this season: secure a home final. They have been able to retain the core of last year's squad, and adjust their play and style to match this which will help them go to that next step this season.

“Our pre-season was a lot different this year as we focused a lot on the style of defense that we hope to play and creating that defensive identity," Tueta further added. "The old saying ‘defense leads to offense’ is very true and cannot be said enough. We are already seeing the benefits of that tightening of our defensive play. Offensively we have a few more structures that allow us to pick and choose where we want to get scores.”

Coming into round four, Rip City has played four games for three wins, with two of these being by large margins. This week they host the Brisbane Capitals, who have just the one win from three games.

“Brisbane play a high-intensity style of defense, so we always have to be ready for that," Tueta outlined. "They have a structured style of play no matter who they are playing, and we just have to find ways to exploit that on the offensive end and just play that defensive style that allows us to run and play loose.”

With a continued strong showing on the court for Rip City this season, Tueta is sure to catch the eyes of any coach still in the market for a guard – something he is confident of this season. With the grit and determination that oozes from him, it is something we as fans can greatly look forward to.

“Right now I am in a position where I am looking to crack the NBL again and get into any team," Tueta enthused. "With free agency, I need to look at which roster spots are still open for a guard. I’m not picking or choosing where I go but working hard to get my foot in the door.”

Isaih Tueta and his Rip City lads play this Sunday May 20th against the Brisbane Capitals at USC Indoor Sports Stadium, with a 2:30pm tip-off.

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