Terrance Ferguson of the Adelaide 36ers drives to the basket.
Terrance Ferguson of the Adelaide 36ers drives to the basket. Chris Hyde

Big Joe wants a happy homecoming

BASKETBALL: Joe Tertzakian admits he will have mixed emotions when he returns to the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre tomorrow.

It's a homecoming for the popular Queensland basketball figure who is now part of the enemy, with the Adelaide 36ers taking on hosts the Brisbane Bullets.

Tertzakian spent nine years as the Bullets' team manager before the franchise's enforced layoff from the NBL.

After a stint heading up basketball associations in Ipswich and Darwin, the 40-year-old has returned to the NBL as general manager of operations and basketball at the 36ers.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed about not coming back to Brisbane, not coming back home,” he told Australian Regional Media.

"Everyone was talking about how good it would be for 'Big Joe' to come home blah blah ... but no one ever told Big Joe.

"But, in saying that, Adelaide came to me ... and it's an amazing playground to be in ... the crowd, the venue itself - there's nothing like it in Australia.”

The move has also brought a reunion with good friend and now 36ers coach Joey Wright. The pair famously led the Bullets to their last NBL title in 2007, and also combined at the now defunct Gold Coast Blaze.

"We live together. It's very funny,” Tertzakian said. "He says on numerous occasions, 'I gotta stop telling you what to do 'cause you're technically my boss now.' When I was his team manager (at the Bullets) he was the boss.

"It's great to link back up with him. Hopefully we can bring a championship here.”

The 36ers have won four titles, the last 14 years ago.

Wright got them close in his first season, taking them from last to runner-up in 2014.

"He can coach,” Tertzakian said. "He's a player's coach. The players love playing for him.”

Among those players under his guidance at the 36ers is Terrance Ferguson, who who has come under the eye of scouts from several NBA franchises.

"He's predicted to go top five in the NBA (draft) next season,” Tertzakian said. "At 18 years of age, he brings an aura that you've never seen before.”

Jerome Randle, who was unlucky not to claim the NBL's MVP award last year, will, however, lead the way tomorrow against the Bullets, who made it two from two over their first weekend back in the competition.

While he's now Adelaide "through and through”, it does warm Tertzakian's heart to see his beloved Bullets back firing under coach Andrej Lemanis.

Featuring ex-36er Adam Gibson and import Torrey Craig, the Bullets are expected to have Cameron Bairstow back this week.

"Having Brisbane back in the league is a win for everybody,” Tertzakian said

But as much as it would pain him to say it, he just hopes they don't win tomorrow.

The 36ers were 1-1 after the opening round, ahead of last night's clash in Melbourne against a struggling United.

"Adelaide's a good city,” he said. "But they also kick you hard when you're down.

"I was at Brisbane and Gold Coast and we had a little bit of that - here it's on another level.

"It is what it is and we've just got to keep winning.”

Bullets v 36ers, tomorrow 6pm (AEST)



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