"I’ve always wanted to be an Olympian, but to be an Olympian and play in my home state in my hometown, there’s nothing better."

13 Jul
By Dan Woods for

Gone are the days of the lumbering seven-foot centre who does all of his work directly under the rim. While he’s only 17 and has a long way to go in his basketball journey, Brisbane Next Star Rocco Zikarsky is conscious of embedding himself within the new age of international bigs.

The 220-centimetre Next Star will embark on his professional journey this season with the Bullets.

Former NBL centre Greg Vanderjagt and 2014 NBA champion Aron Baynes will likely provide the groundwork for him – and fellow emerging big Josh Bannan – to establish themselves as one of the next generation’s most intimidating frontcourt duos.

Zikarsky was something of a late-comer to the basketball party, but one dream has not changed – the dream to be an Olympian. And he already has one eye on 2032 in Brisbane. 

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“That’s one of the biggest goals that I have right now, is to be able to come back to a place I grew up and to play on the biggest stage in the world. It’s something that ever since it was announced, I’ve had it up on my wall,” Zikarsky told SEN.

“It’s something I’ve been chasing and it’s a goal I’ve been dreaming of. I’ve always wanted to be an Olympian, but to be an Olympian and play in my home state in my hometown, there’s nothing better.

“I swam pretty much my entire life and I was lucky enough to have my mum as my coach during that time. I was lucky enough to go to two nationals and win 50 metre freestyle in both of them.

“My dad went to the Olympics twice for Germany and on his second trip was able to win a bronze medal and my mum competed in IronWoman all over the world ... deep family sporting background.

“Probably the start of 2021 I decided it was time for me to hang up the cap and goggles and try and make the move over to basketball. It’s when I got my NBA Academy scholarship and I kind of had to choose between them both, and I thought basketball would be the better of the two.”

In the space of two years, the now 17-year-old hoops phemon decided to give up the pool – where he had a personal best 50 metre freestyle time of 23.7 seconds – for the court.

In seven NBL1 East games this season, he’s averaged 9.9 points, six rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game, and while he’s only attempted one three-pointer so far this season, he’s been consciously developing his shooting stroke.

“I think I had a lot of coaches who helped me, but particularly with my shooting were Warwick Cann and Warwick Wilson,” he continued.

“Warwick Wilson came into my development a little later but really helped fine-tune my shot and make it a lot smoother, and Warwick Cann was actually the man who told me that gone were the days of the big men sitting in the paint. He actually opened my eyes into what a modern big is supposed to be.

“I’ve been super lucky that I’ve been able to go to Spain twice and been able to go over to America and play in Vegas.

“The European style of play is something on its own – it’s completely disconnected from Australian and American basketball.

“It opens your eyes into all these facets of the game and different ways people see it and play it.

“It’s all very eye-opening.”

Zikarsky and the Bullets will open their NBL24 campaign against the Adelaide 36ers on Friday, September 29.

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