Brisbane head coach Justin Schueller believes the presence of Aron Baynes will have a huge impact on Next Star centre Rocco Zikarsky's game.

7 Jul
By Dan Woods for

One of Australia’s most talented young bigs has signed with the Brisbane Bullets for NBL24, and he could hardly have a better mentor to learn from in the form of Aron Baynes.

16-year-old Rocco Zikarsky has become the youngest NBL Next Star in the history of the program. He may be 17 by the time the season starts, but the 7’3” prospect is already learning from one of the top centres Australia has ever produced.

Baynes has walked the path all Next Stars strive for, and that’s to forge a long and strong career in the NBA.

Although Baynes went undrafted following his collegiate career at Washington State, he found his way to the NBA after four strong years in Europe.

After joining the San Antonio Spurs in 2013, he embarked on a journey that saw him play a total of 576 games (188 starts) for five teams, across almost a decade.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">A big signing, in the most literal sense ?<br><br>16-year-old Aussie talent Rocco Zikarsky is the ??????? Next Star in <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBL24</a>, and at 7&#39;3&quot;, you can&#39;t miss him ?<br><br>Read more: <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="">July 6, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

“It’s been great to have him in over the last few weeks and just seeing him go day-to-day against ‘Baynesy’,” Schueller said of Zikarsky.

“There’s no better role model than Baynesy for him. The interactions they’ve already had, the way Baynesy has gone about it – he’s going to keep him accountable and challenge him every day, and that’s what Rocco needs.

“This opportunity was a big factor in why he felt ready to make the jump and turn pro at such a young age.”

Zikarsky’s rim protection qualities are already more than apparent to those at the top level of the game.

He was a training squad member for the Boomers’ FIBA World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Bahrain, and renowned shot-blocker and former Atlanta Hawk Isaac Humphries praised the 7’3” centre’s abilities at the defensive end of the floor.

“Rocco’s been awesome,” Humphries said. “His shot-blocking is elite.

“I pride myself on my shot-blocking. It’s a big thing of mine and he was solid, I was almost learning some things from him.”

With Zikarsky, Baynes and Josh Bannan now seemingly holding down the frontcourt for the Bullets, Schueller has revealed the club’s plans for the final few roster spots.

“Summer League is going to be good for us, for myself and Stu Lash – and we’ve got Greg Vanderjagt over there with the Pelicans right now in that environment as well – it’s going to be great for us to go and find that last import spot.

“We need a dynamic wing that can create their own shot and be a dynamic scorer. That’s what we’re going over there to try and find, and the other exciting part is to be able to show the new way of the Bullets what we’re about.

“It’s going to be a good little period for us.

“We’ve got one last local roster spot, we’ve had a group of 20-odd athletes in this week to test that space our and it’s finally all coming together.”

Brisbane’s opening game of the season the Adelaide 36ers on Friday, September 29.

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