For The Love Of Basketball: Angus Brandt’s Journey
Angus Brandt has built an impressive resumé as a professional basketballer. Commonwealth Games gold medallist, 2-time National Basketball League (NBL) champion and being named to Pac-12 All-Academic at Oregon State University headline an impressive career to-date for the 32-year-old. Yet, the journey to this point has not been conventional. From the moment he first started playing basketball alongside school mates in Wagga Wagga, Angus has been driven purely by his passion for the game, a mindset that has seen him overcome many hurdles over the years.
"As a kid growing up playing basketball, I was just oblivious to the world of what you could achieve by being a basketball player. I played basketball because I loved it," Angus said on the Passion and Perspective Podcast.
"There was no thought to doing it (basketball) as a career. I didn't grow up expecting to be a professional basketball player."
Playing locally in his youth for the Springwood Scorchers and Penrith Panthers, Angus made a name for himself with his athletic play and imposing figure on the court. Missing selection to state representative teams as an 18-year-old was not a deterrent for Angus. With a mature and open mind to life, Angus maintained a grounded perspective about basketball.
As fate would have it, the right people were watching at the right time. The aforementioned selection trials did not yield a place in the team, but Damian Cotter – then NSW Institute of Sport basketball coach, now Assistant Coach with the Chicago Bulls – was looking on with intrigue and interest. Cotter was impressed with the work ethic and raw skill set displayed by the young Brandt.
"For me, that was the first opportunity I had really been given to train with a high-level program. I jumped right in and took full advantage of it (scholarship with NSWIS)", Angus said.
"He said he saw a raw talent in me…he saw the physical attributes I had and I guess he thought he would be able to sharpen those skills and that's what he did. He helped me push past what I thought my physical barriers were."
The persistence to his craft and desire to train started to reap reward for Angus. Fine tuning his on-court game to complement a sharper mental and physical approach, saw significant improvements. With prompting and counsel from Cotter, Angus took a leap of faith in pursuing a place within the USA college system – the leading amateur sport competition in the world.
"We trained all the time…we would go wherever Damian wanted us to go and we trained multiple days a week. From that, Damian basically said 'You've got a shot at going to college in America'", Angus said.
"Up to that point, I didn't think I could do that…the whole world of college basketball was so foreign to me…so foreign that I didn't even consider it as an option."
Reflective of his humble nature, Angus states "I played well at the right time, in front of the right people" when trialling for a spot at a college, although others might suggest luck was not a factor. His performances led to numerous offers from all the major USA colleges, and, with the guidance of family and coaches, Angus was able to filter the noise and settle on a place at Oregon State University, in the pacific northwest of America.
Stepping onto the court in the US was a sharp reminder of the elevated standard for Angus, with the speed and athleticism of college ball akin to that of the elite level. The step up was made even more challenging with the additional 'bells and whistles' that accompanies college sports.
"Before I got to college, the biggest crowd I played in front of was, maybe, 50 people. Then my first game at Oregon State I think we had 8,000 people there", Angus said.
"You've got the college band, the cheerleaders, the huge stadium, the announcers, the TV cameras…that was the single biggest difference I noticed."
Since his time in the college system, Angus has worked hard to enjoy the benefits of life as a professional athlete. Stints with the Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats in the NBL were an incredible experience, according to Angus. There was still the allure of playing professionally overseas, and this came to fruition with a contract in Italy. Leaving Australia – and contract offers in the NBL – was tough, but he knew that these offers were few and far between.
"It had always been a goal of mine to play overseas and it's something I always wanted to do with basketball, to see the world and see different places and experience different cultures," Angus said.
"It was extremely difficult but looking back it was the right call to make."
Now playing for the Kagawa Five Arrows in Japan's B. League, Angus' recent performances yielded a recall to the Australian line up. Representing his country at last month's FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers, Angus played a key role in Australia's three victories against Chinese Taipei (twice) and Japan. The opportunity to represent the Boomers, and wear the green and gold, is always special according to Angus, made even more meaningful given the competition with the current wave of talent in Australian basketball.
"It's a golden age of basketball in Australia and it's awesome to be playing in this time…you never know when your last time playing for Australia is going to be…you have to embrace each opportunity and live it to its fullest."
Listen to Angus' inspiring story by searching Passion and Perspective Podcast on all podcast platforms.