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Aussie Izzy

Isaih Tueta is still pinching himself that he is getting his NBL opportunity on foreign soil but with the way he has been accepted only makes him want to work extra hard to repay the faith the New Zealand Breakers have put in him. The Australian point guard was signed by the Breakers as an injury replacement for Shea Ili and he has shown some good signs in his first taste in the NBL across his first six games. But once import point guard Ben Woodside injured a foot late in Friday's win in Melbourne, suddenly he was the team's only true point guard with Woodside and Ili on the sidelines. Rather than be daunted by that task, the 25-year-old stood up tremendously to have a career-high 13 points. He shot 3-of-4 from the field and 5-of-7 from the foul line in over 20 minutes to help the Breakers to the 16-point win over the Brisbane Bullets at Vector Arena on Sunday. With Woodside to spend time sidelined and Ili's return no closer, Tueta will have a key role with the Breakers starting Sunday at Perth Arena against the Wildcats in a Grand Final rematch. The growth already of Tueta as he adjusts to playing in the NBL could be fully on show come Sunday. On his first trip to Perth earlier in the season, Casey Prather hounded him into back-to-back turnovers that proved decisive in the Wildcats coming from behind to win. But as Tueta showed on Sunday, he is playing with greater aggressiveness and confidence now that he's feeling more at home both in the NBL and with the Breakers. Even on Sunday he had a slow start, but once coach Paul Henare showed faith in him, he had the confidence to go out and relax. "I want that aggressiveness to be my mindset every time I get on the floor, regardless of how many minutes I'm going to get," Tueta said. "My first stint when I came out I had been overthinking things but the second time I came out I relaxed a bit more, and just played my game. Things started working then and that's the mindset I need to continue to have." Even if Woodside is out, the Breakers are hardly shy on experienced leaders. Tueta is loving every minute of playing with, and learning off the likes of Corey Webster, Kirk Penney, Mika Vukona, Tom Abercrombie and Alex Pledger. "The advantage with our team is that we've got so many experienced guys so if you lose a point guard and leader like Ben, you've still Mika, Kirk, Tommy, Pledg and all these guys to step up as leaders," Tueta said. "For me I'm just able to come out and slot in there. There's not really too much pressure on me in that situation because everyone knows how to play and is experienced. That helps for young guys like me when you come in and get your chance." Henare wasn’t surprised that Tueta could step up in the absence of Woodside and was more than comfortable giving him the opportunity to see what he could do. "Often you find in those situations where players get more opportunities they can shine. I just thought he was aggressive," Henare said. "I had a nice chat to him after his first stint on the floor and just told him to go out there and have fun, and be aggressive. For Izzy that's when he's at his best – when he's thinking less and playing more. "That's a good mind frame to have against teams that get after you defensively, junk it up and pressure you up the floor. He got a few opportunities and was able to be really productive in his 20 minutes." Tueta has waited patiently for a chance to play in the NBL having spent the past two seasons with the Brisbane Spartans in the SEABL. He joined New Zealand to fill in for Ili a month out from the NBL season beginning and ever since has been pinching himself to not only be part of the league, but to be at a Breakers team who has played in five of the last six Grand Finals. Because of that, he just wants to play whatever he role he can for the team so his dream of playing in the NBL can continue as long as possible. "It meant a lot getting over here in the first place to be given the opportunity and from that first game, every time I get on the floor it means a lot. Every game is just as enjoyable as the next for me whether I hit shots or not," Tueta said. "In terms of scoring 13 points, that's great but I've been enjoying all the games as much as the next since I got here whether I'm scoring or not. If I score zero points but I'm doing what I can to help the team then it's a good night for me." The Breakers had no hesitation in placing their faith in Tueta either to replace Ili or to now step up with Woodside injured especially when he was recommended to them by the legend himself, CJ Bruton. Tueta is also the only Australian on the Breakers roster but that's something he didn’t immediately realise and his New Zealand teammates have done nothing but fully embrace him. "I got here and it wasn’t until four weeks in that I figured out I was the only Aussie. Nobody was giving me too much flak about it, they've taken it pretty easy on me," Tueta said. "I've told the boys before, coming into this club there is such a tight group of guys and the culture here is so strong. They are all Kiwis, they've all been together for a long time and it's an awesome group to be part of. There are no ego battles on this team which is an amazing thing for a pro team."
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