The Next Stars program adds another talented Australian.

7 Jul
By Writers

One of the hottest properties in Australian basketball will begin his professional career in the Hungry Jack’s NBL, with 7-foot-3 giant, Rocco Zikarsky, joining the Brisbane Bullets as a Next Star.

At just 16, Zikarsky has the potential to join the ranks of Australia’s great big men; an illustrious group that includes new teammate Aron Baynes, as well as NBA champions in Luc Longley and Andrew Bogut.   

Currently a scholarship holder at the NBA Global Academy in Canberra, Zikarsky will be a multi-year Next Star, as he looks to develop his game and take the next giant leap in his career. 

Zikarsky's first year of NBA draft eligibility will be in 2025. 

Despite his age, Zikarsky has already been on NBA team radars, thanks to outstanding performances with Australia’s junior national teams and throughout other junior championship tournaments. 

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Zikarsky, who stands 7-foot-3, emerged as one of the top prospects in the world in his age group at last summer&#39;s FIBA U17 World Cup. He says he was being recruited by the likes of Duke, Gonzaga, Michigan, USC, Arizona and the NBA&#39;s G League Ignite program.<br><br>HIGHLIGHTS: <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) <a href="">July 6, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

“I’m really excited to start my professional career and chose to sign with the Bullets because of the coaching and the community. I grew up in the basketball community in South East Queensland, so to me it was a no brainer,” Zikarsky said.

“I watched my first Bullets game back in 2017, and ever since then I fell in love with the game, so it’s a full circle moment.

“Being from South East Queensland and being given the opportunity to don a Bullets jersey is a great honour.

“I'm really looking forward to getting an opportunity to play with some of the world’s best and also looking forward to playing against my former teammates from the COE in Toohey (Alex Toohey) and Henny (Ben Henshall).”

Since January 2022, Zikarsky has been developing his game at the NBA Global Academy, under the tutelage of Technical Director Marty Clarke and his staff. Throughout that time, the Queensland native has performed well at numerous elite domestic and international events. 

He averaged 13.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.1 blocks for Australia at the 2022 FIBA U17 World Cup, showcasing his dominance on both ends of the floor. He led the tournament in blocks, finished fifth in scoring and sixth in rebounding. He also had a strong showing at the 2022 FIBA U16 Asia Cup, where he was named a member of the All-Tournament Team.

Representing Queensland South at the 2023 U18 National Championships, Zikarsky amassed an impressive 19.8 points, 12.6 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game. He also played up an age group at the 2023 U20 National Championships, recording 13.7 points, 10 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game as a member of the NBA Global Academy team.

Zikarsky has played seven NBL1 East games this season for the Centre of Excellence.

“This is undoubtedly the biggest, and arguably the most talented, contingent of Next Stars we have ever had, and Rocco’s signing takes it to another level,” NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said.

“This is a significant coup for us. We firmly believe Rocco has the potential to be one of Australia’s next basketball superstars. 

“For him to commit to the NBL this early, further shows the trust and respect players from all around the country and in fact the world have for our Next Stars program. 

“The Next Stars has produced several NBA players already and young Australians, such as Rocco and Alex Toohey, are now viewing the program as the best steppingstone.”

Bullets coach Justin Schueller said it is "really exciting" for the club to sign Zikarsky.

“I had the pleasure of coaching Rocco at the World Championships last year and saw that he was one of the best bigs for his age at that point and now to be his first coach at a pro level is really exciting individually and for the club,” Schueller said.

“That’s what the Next Stars is about, progressing athletes through and getting him ready for the next stage. We just can’t wait to have him day in and out with us and seeing that progression.

“For him to start his professional career in his home state, in front of his family and friends is something special, and for us as a club we want QLD kids coming through to know there’s a vessel for them to go and chase their dreams.”

The Next Stars program has become a proven and consistent pathway to the NBA, producing five draft picks in the last four years including LaMelo Ball (pick 3, 2020), RJ Hampton (pick 24, 2020), Josh Giddey (pick 6, 2021), Ousmane Dieng (pick 11, 2022) and Rayan Rupert (pick 43, 2023). 

Zikarsky is the seventh Next Star signing and joins Alex Toohey (Sydney Kings), Bobi Klintman (Cairns Taipans), AJ Johnson (Illawarra Hawks), Ariel Hukporti (Melbourne United), Mantas Rubstavicius (New Zealand Breakers) and Alexandre Sarr (Perth Wildcats).

Brisbane’s season begins on Friday, September 29, against Adelaide.

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