Angus Brandt has been one of the significant improvers in NBL18, developing his game to become a strong inside scoring option for the Perth Wildcats, but for the 28-year old big man from the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, this story of success wasn’t always set in stone.
Brandt was born in Epping, and grew up in Springwood in the Blue Mountains region, but in between those stops his family moved to Wagga Wagga, and it was during this time in his late primary school years that he ditched another form of B-Ball to take up the five-man game.
“To tell you the truth, I actually grew up mostly playing Baseball when I was younger, but then I just got bored with it. The pace of the game was a bit too slow for me, and then also playing Baseball in the Wagga summers was pretty brutal.” Brandt said.
“But when I was at school I always had a Basketball hoop in my backyard, and then all my mates played Basketball at lunchtime, so then I started playing after school with them and I just found that it was so much more exciting with the pace of the game, and on top of that it was played inside, so you weren’t outside in the boiling hot summer heat.” He said with a laugh.
Brandt was a solid player as a junior, representing Blaxland High School and then playing reps in Sydney, but says he never imagined himself making it as a professional Basketball player.
“When I came back to Sydney, I missed out on a lot of state teams and representative teams and that sort of thing, so I didn’t really think I was destined to play Basketball, I just did it because I really enjoyed it.”
“I actually almost stopped taking it seriously, and I nearly didn’t go to the under 20’s state tryouts for New South Wales, but then the coach at the time Jeff Cooper twisted my arm and said ‘come down for a run, you never know how you’ll go’ so I said alright, I’ll give it one more shot.”
And that shot proved to be pivotal turning point.
Brandt still didn’t make the team, but during the tryout he struck a connection with respected Australian Basketball coach Damian Cotter, and subsequently landed himself a spot at the NSW Institute of Sport, which Cotter was heading up at the time.
“I guess he [Cotter] was the first coach to really see something in me and give me a chance, and because it was the first real chance I’d been given I just grabbed it with both hands and tried to make the most of it.” He said.
Brandt enjoyed a successful stint at the NSW Institute of sport, and following that he moved to the United States where he attended Lake Forrest Academy in Illinois and played AAU Summer basketball, which proved to be a great chance to further develop his game.
“In that summer, all I really did was train, eat, sleep and play basketball all summer long, and I just loved it.” He said. “Then from there I was lucky enough to play good enough in a few games that I attracted attention from some pretty good colleges.”
Settling with Oregon State University, Brandt went on to play four full seasons in the PAC-12 conference, where both his play and his numbers grew throughout his time there, culminating in averaging 12.57 points and 3.93 rebounds per game as a starting centre in his senior year.
Brandt said he loved his time in America and reflected fondly over the college experience.
“It was amazing, it was some of the best years of my life I think. It was such a great experience living in another country, and the college environment is so unique to America, and it’s really something I wish that every person could experience because it’s so great the way they do it over there, especially as an athlete,”
“Also from a Basketball perspective it was really good for me. I think I made the right choice in school I went to because I was able to play quite a lot from my first year there, so I was able to develop as a basketball player, and at that point in my career that’s what I needed. I needed to play, and needed to be on the court versing really good competition and that’s what I was able to do and I think it really helped me in the long run.”
Being at Oregon State, a college that primarily ran the Princeton offense, helped Brandt develop other areas of his game within a system that encourages players to have a diverse range of skills on the court.
“I became a much better shooter, dribbler, passer of the ball, just because my coach was very strong on developing all those fundamental skills” he said. “So I think my game just really evolved while I was there, and towards the latter end of my college career I started really honing in on developing my post-game and finding my style and what worked for me, and I think it’s something that’s stuck with me now.”
Following his college career, Brandt returned to Australia, with his sights set on playing in the NBL, and the stars seemed to align at just the right time for him to suit up for his hometown Sydney Kings.
“So I came back from college, and I was lucky enough to have a few offers from a number of clubs, and I was actually very close to signing with Melbourne.”
“But then Damian Cotter, who was my coach at NSWIS, got the job at Sydney, and he called me, so I took another look at Sydney and ultimately ended up signing with them because I always wanted to play for him in an actual team, not just in a development role, and then also the fact that I’d be in Sydney around friends and family was something I was very attracted to as well.”
Brandt played two solid seasons with the Kings, winning Rookie of the Year honours in his first season, before a mutual decision by both club and player saw him part ways with the Kings and move across the country to join the Perth Wildcats for the 16/17 NBL season.
With multiple offers on the table following his tenure with the Kings, Brandt said his decision to sign with the Wildcats was based around two factors, their history of winning, and also their reputation for player growth.
“I really wanted to go somewhere that had an emphasis on development.” He said.
“I looked at players like Tom Jervis who played a few seasons with Perth and he just improved out-of-sight to the player he is now. Development has always been really important to me in terms of where I wanted to go, and I’m very lucky now to be coached by Matt Nielsen. He’s one of the best bigs Australia has had, so to have him in my corner and teach me the tools of the trade is awesome. And obviously Trev, I’ve got a tonne of respect for him.”
While Brandt is in fact playing less minutes per game (17.85) with the Wildcats now than what he did in his rookie season with the Kings (18.43), he’s moved into a starting role with the Wildcats this season, increasing his statistical numbers across the board and becoming a go-to scoring option in the paint within Trevor Gleeson’s offense, and Brandt credits a his hard work in the off-season for the improvement.
“I trained very hard in the off-season to improve, and I had a goal to make the Boomers which I was lucky enough to do, and I’m very proud of myself for making it because of the hard work I put in.”
“The club was also great about getting SBL players around the Perth area to come in and train with me, sort of like a sparring partner for a boxer almost.”
“One of those guys was big Andrew Naymick who played for the Stirling Senators this year, and he was fantastic, he came down more than anyone else. He’s played all over the world, and he’s a quality big and a really good defender, so going against him every day in the off-season was fantastic for me, and he’s one guy that I really appreciated what he did for me.” He said.
With the 2018 NBL Playoffs just around the corner, Brandt doesn’t want his growth and improvement to stop any time soon, he says he has big goals and aspirations for the remainder of this season, but also the rest of his career, and wants to keep elevating his play each year until he retires to help him get there.
“I think there’s definitely room to improve until I finish my career. You look at a guy like Shawn Redhage, and he continued to improve throughout his whole career, same with Matty Knight, he improved throughout his whole career too. I think the guys who have been in the league for years and years continue to improve and that’s why they’ve been able to stick around. So I’d like to be able to do that as well.”
“In terms of goals and aspirations, I’d really like to play for Australia at a World Cup or an Olympics. That’d be the number one goal.”
This weekend Brandt will line up for the Boomers in their FIBA World Cup qualifiers against the Phillipines and Chinese Taipei, and while we know it’s not quite as prestigious as competing in the Olympics, this boy from the Blue Mountains will still be pulling on that green and gold jersey to represent his country, knowing he’s become one of the best big-men in Australia.