Damian Martin and Andrew Bogut were 17 and roommates when they arrived in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport.
They then travelled to the US and went to different colleges. The rest, as they say, is history with new Sydney Kings marquee Bogut staying in America to carve out a distinguished NBA career while Martin returned home overseeing a four-time championship tenure at the Perth Wildcats.
Now, 17 years on from that first meeting, the Rio Olympic teammates will line-up against each other in the 2018-19 edition of the National Basketball League.
Much has changed since those early days, on and off the court, according to Gloucester-raised Martin but titles are within reach for both of them as competition gets underway this week.
“He [Bogut] is one of the best players to ever play for Australia or represent Australia in the NBA,” Martin told the Newcastle Herald.
“I was living with Bogut at the AIS, as 17-year-olds, and you kind of go fast forward 17 years. Now he’s married with two kids and I’m married with a second kid on the way. Life looks a bit different now to what it did back then.
“But he’s had an incredible career in America and representing Australia at different Olympic Games. And now to see him back in the NBL it’s just a massive coup for the league as a whole, but even at the age of [almost] 34 he’s still definitely one of the premier players in the league.
“And he’s just going to make his team [Sydney] so much better, not only with his skill set, but his leadership. He’s the biggest pick up in as long as I can remember.”
Perth visit Adelaide on Thursday (7:50pm AEDT) for their season opener fresh from a 10-day pre-season trip to the US playing against NBA franchises the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets.
“It’s a combination of things we take away from that,” Martin said.
“We thought that the team development off the court was just as important as on it, so the chemistry of getting to know each other.
“One thing I really learned, normally when you play a game you review your own team and individual performances but we got to have a good look at what makes the Utah Jazz one of the best teams in the world.”
Martin, a six-time NBL best defensive player including last season, recently turned 34 and is approaching the end of a three-year contract.
“It’s a contract year for me,” he said.
“The Wildcats are pretty adamant they don’t re-negotiate during contracts.
“I still love the game and provided I can physically contribute and play my role on the team I’d love to continue going.
“In saying that, I’m also not naive that eventually it comes to an end. Hopefully we can have a great season and I can stay healthy.”
The Kings also kick start their campaign against Adelaide, but in Sydney on Saturday (2:50pm AEDT). A pre-season trial between a Bogut-led Sydney and Illawarra was cancelled just before tip-off last month because of issues with the playing surface at Newcastle Entertainment Centre.
Perth host Illawarra on Sunday (5:20pm AEDT).
In the Women’s National Basketball League and Newcastle’s Katie Ebzery returns from a silver-medal effort with the Opals at the World Cup in Spain to play for new club Perth against Adelaide on Saturday.
Three-time Olympian Suzy Batkovic begins her retirement season at home with reigning premiers Townsville against Dandenong on Sunday.
Cassidy McLean links up with the Bendigo Spirit, who play Melbourne on Saturday, while fellow Hunter representatives Lara McSpadden and Susannah Walmsley (Sydney Uni Flames) go head-to-head with Hannah Young (Canberra Capitals) in the state capital on Friday night.