Where Are All the Kangaroos?

I guess you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.

When my mom and I landed in Adelaide in August after a brutal 21-hour flight from Dallas I didn’t see a single freaking kangaroo.

The airport didn’t have any of those giant killer spiders you see online, just people going to their gate or to baggage claim.

Outside, there weren’t any koalas munching on eucalyptus leaves. There were buildings and cars and my coaches waiting to pick us up. It was so … normal.

As you may know, instead of playing college basketball this year, I chose to play professionally in Australia’s National Basketball League. When it came down to being financially stable or playing for free for a year, the choice was easy.

We went right to the gym. My coaches and I got some shots up, played horse and spent time getting to know one another.

After that, they drove my mom and I to the condo that would be our home for the next year. Before the flight, I had googled my address in Adelaide, just to see what the city was like. The pictures had me pretty pumped. Our neighborhood looked like a pretty lively part of town. But when we pulled up to the condo, it looked nothing like it did in those pictures. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really nice place, but I’m pretty sure I’m the youngest person in the complex by at least 30 years.

How could you lie to me like that, Google?

Like I said: you can’t believe everything you read online.

Practice here doesn’t start until 10 a.m., but on my first day, I was so nervous and scared of being late that I showed up at 8. When the other players started filing in, the butterflies in my stomach flapped even harder.

Are they gonna haze me?

Are they gonna shut me out because I’m an American?

Turned out I was worrying for nothing. The players came up to me and told me how excited they were that I was there. The butterflies went away immediately.

They did have a warning for me, though.

“Terrance,” one of my new teammates said, “because you’re an American, players are going to target you. And the refs aren’t going to give you anything.”

Man, they weren’t lying.

From the very first game, guys just kept coming at me: shoving me, taking cheap shots, hip-checking me, every dirty tactic in the book.

I was like, What did I ever do to you? What’s your problem with me? You’ve never even met me before!

Once, I was lined up along the lane while a player on the other team was shooting free throws. He missed and I tried to get in position for a rebound, but another guy was boxing me out.

And by boxing me out, I mean that he put me in a freaking headlock. Look, I get that the NBL is a physical league, but man, I’d never actually seen someone bust out a headlock in a game.

I shove him off of me, and the second that happens, the ref blows the whistle.

I’m like, Finally, they call a foul!

The ref makes the sign for a technical foul, putting his hands together into a T … and then points at me!

Hold up, I’m thinking. The dude put me in a headlock and I get the technical!

My teammate hadn’t been kidding. I learned pretty quickly to never expect a single call to come my way.

That’s O.K., though, because I know this will get me ready for the NBA.

And that’s what this year is all about: helping my team win and preparing myself for the league.

I’d say that the first part of that is going all right. My team, the Adelaide 36ers, is in first place in the league, and I’m averaging 17 minutes per game. My numbers aren’t gonna startle you, but it’s my first year playing against grown men. I knew there would be growing pains in the beginning.

As for preparing myself for the NBA, I have to give coach Joey Wright and his staff all of the credit. Pretty much from the start, they have given me the green light on offense. When they told me that, I thought, Uh … you know I’m the youngest player here, right? You know I’m a rookie?

But, hey, if they want me to shoot, I’m not going to say anything!

They’re helping me with all of the little stuff: footwork, basketball IQ, coming off of screens, talking on defense — the little things that they tell me will go a long way in the NBA. They’re also teaching me about life off the court. I know that things are going to change significantly if I’m lucky enough to get drafted, and they’re preparing me for that. They want to make sure I don’t let people from outside my circle influence me, that I don’t hang with the wrong crew and that I’m always true to myself.

With my mom around, I don’t think they have to worry too much about any of that.

Yep. I brought my mom to Australia. And she doesn’t have to work, just like I promised her. She’s the little piece of home that I was able to bring with me, and I’m lucky to have her here. If I didn’t, I’d be lost. I know some kids can’t wait to get away from their parents when they turn 18, but not me.

It’s been fun living in Australia, but I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been tough at times. I miss my family, my friends, the food, driving around a place where I know all the roads.

But my teammates here have really helped me settle in and feel at home. We’ll go to the beach sometimes (which is absolutely a bonus of living in Australia … no beaches in Dallas!) and play volleyball or throw around a football. Sometimes we’ll go to someone’s house, sit by the pool and eat some barbecue. It’s mostly chicken and shrimp. It’s not bad, but it’s got nothing on Texas barbecue.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I do know this: the moment I land in Dallas, the first place I’m going isn’t to my sister’s house, my brother’s house or any of my friends. Nope.

The second I get in a car, I’m going straight to Whataburger.