Rocco Zikarsky: Australia's next great big man?
The 7'3 centre has a path to become a Boomers staple and one of the the best front court players of Australia's next generation.
Longley. Bradtke. Bogut. Baynes.
More than any other position in its basketball history, Australia's long list of internationally successful talent has been headlined by an illustrious catalogue of big men.
None, however, stand taller than Rocco Zikarsky - Australia’s latest exciting front court prospect. Now at 7’3 per latest measurements (and supposedly still growing), the recently turned 16 year old is emerging as the next potential great centre, from an Australian pipeline that has recently been dominated by high level perimeter talent.
While it’s hard to ignore the towering physical presence on initial impression, Zikarsky brings much more to the table than height.
“[We first identified him] in 2018 or 2019, so he was 12 or 13 at the time,” NBA Global Academy Director Marty Clarke told The Pick and Roll earlier this week. “He clearly had some identifiable traits, size being the obvious one, but competitiveness, and for a big kid some self belief - he knows he’s good, which is a great trait to have, as well as great hands.”
Watching Zikarsky play, there’s a clear fire in his belly. He’s emotive on the court and not afraid to get in the opposition’s ears. For players that have grown up with overwhelmingly dominant physical tools, asserting themselves consistently can require some coaxing. But for Zikarsky, no such problem exists.
“The competitiveness and self belief leads to what you see,” Clarke said.
Zikarsky wants to dominate, and he knows he can. He probably understands it’s difficult to do for long, long stretches, but when he’s out there he enjoys beating people. He gets frustrated with himself when that doesn’t happen, but they’re all good traits. You’d much rather that then having to wind someone up and get them into things, and Rocco doesn’t have that problem.”
Zikarsky reflectively concurs. As with all young, passionate players, the process of channelling his emotions for good is a process - one which has been a focus since joining the NBA Global Academy last year.
“I get very into it - there’s not many times I’m quiet on the court, especially when we’re playing well and the team’s up and about, it gets me excited, it gets the team excited, and I’m not afraid to let the other team hear it and getting my teammates amped up, because my body language is huge on the court and everyone sees it. I have to try and keep it positive, because I get emotional and really into the game, but when it’s rolling for us it’s rolling really well.
“It’s been a big focus, even developing while here even, my emotions sometimes get the best of me when nothing’s going for me or the team, so I’ve been focusing on making sure that doesn’t happen, because it doesn’t just get me down, but it gets my teammates down, and just trying to focus that energy into playing instead of getting my head down has been a big focus.”