Basketball News 2022: 7-foot teenager Rocco Zikarsky will make Boomer’s debut in FIBA World Cup qualifiers
In the midst of the NBL Finals, Australia’s Boomers play two World Cup qualifiers, leaving selections looking far and wide for talent. There’s one kid they can’t miss.
Six-foot-tall teenage sensation Rocco Zikarsky is set to make his Senior Boomers debut next month in a FIBA window that could devastate NBL teams in the midst of playoff campaigns.
Zikarsky, 16, is believed to be Bolter in Australia’s final two World Cup qualifiers against Bahrain and Kazakhstan on February 23 and 26.
The 215cm product of the NBA Global Academy and Gold Medalist of the FIBA Under 16s Asian Championship has already attracted the attention of talent watchers around the world with its sheer size and prowess.
The Queenslander will become the youngest player in a Boomers roster missing a host of NBL stars due to playoff commitments.
The NBL will pause its Feb. 20-28 Finals for the FIBA window, and News Corp assumes the league has played games one and two of the semifinals before the break and if a crucial game three is required , this would happen after February 28th.
Title favorites Sydney Kings have a player in sharpshooter Dejan Vasiljevic who has raised his hand to play for the Boomers – and the club can’t stop him under FIBA rules.
At this time, Vasiljevic is the only NBL playoff representative from Australia to volunteer for the Boomers in the two-game Burbs series to be played at Wantirna State Basketball Center.
Any player involved in NBL finals would have to weigh whether they wanted to represent their country or whether they would weigh the risk of an injury that could potentially derail their national campaigns.
The rest of the Boomers’ roster will be made up of players from the NBL playoff picture, including Brisbane’s Nathan Sobey, Adelaide’s Mitch McCarron and Illawarra’s Sam Froling, along with Australians abroad and young guns.
Bronze medalist Boomer Nick Kay will captain the team and Basketball Australia boss Matt Scriven believes the former Perth Wildcats, currently playing in Japan, are the perfect skipper choice to take on next-generation players like Zikarsky and Alex Toohey care for.
Scriven recalls the two-time NBL champion playing a key leadership role as the Boomers brought a young team to Japan for World Cup qualifiers last February.
“Nick spent time guiding this whole group through Boomer culture and conducting sessions with them,” Scriven said.
“So guys like David Okwera, Sean MacDonald and Emmet Naar were all subject to expectations around boomer culture.
“That’s the benefit of a broader focus on the boomers and the Australian men’s program.
“What we were trying to create revolves around the Boomers brand, regardless of the players involved.
“The Boomers culture is now really transcending the Olympic and World Cup levels throughout the roster.”
WHY NBA SCOUTS CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF THE AUSSIE LEAGUE
NBA scouts have flocked to Australia over the past week to keep their eyes on the NBL’s growing talent pool.
On the back of lottery winners LaMelo Ball and Josh Giddey, Australia has become a fertile testing ground – and US teams have taken notice.
Indiana’s recruiting chief Ryan Carr was one of more than 10 scouts to hit our shores last week, and he says it’s a trip that should be on every NBA club’s radar.
“It won’t be long before every NBA team has connections over here just with the way the NBL is growing and improving the way players are getting better,” said Carr, vice president of player human resources the pacers.
“The number of good players per capita coming from down here makes it totally worth staying in touch and making sure we know what’s going on as the younger lads develop.
“Ever since the NBL introduced the Next Stars program, it’s attracted really good talent, and there are some of these guys that play in the NBA.
“The coaching here is very organized and it’s a team-oriented league, which is so beneficial in preparing these younger players for the transition to play at the NBA level.”
Previous Next Stars like Terrance Ferguson (2016-17, Adelaide) and Brian Bowen (2018-19, Sydney) opened the NBA’s eyes to the NBL, but Carr says NBA lottery tips from LaMelo Ball and Josh Giddey turned things around have taken it one step further.
“Terrance and Brian, they were good players, Brian even played with us for a few years but I think Melo took it to the extreme and then Josh Giddey came along so you have two lottery picks and it legitimizes the league,” said he.
“There’s something about the league in going up to the players and saying, ‘Hey, we’ve had two lottery picks in the last few years,’ so I think that probably helped the NBL with their recruitment.”
Due to the NBA’s strict recruiting rules, none of the scouts Crosscourt spoke to were able to discuss individual players.
But Down Under’s talent pool features young talent, including likely New Zealand first-round draft pick Rayan Rupert, 20-year-old Melbourne forward David Okwera, teammate and former NBA man Rayjon Tucker, and elder Bigs Xavier Cooks (Sydney). and Keanu Pinder (Cairns) who jumped.
BOGUTS HUGE GIDDEY EXPLANATION
Basketball’s top shooting coach – Chip Engelland – helped Josh Giddey overcome second-year syndrome and become Australia’s leading NBA player.
It’s a big statement considering Giddey is still a sophomore, but that’s exactly what he’s accomplished according to Aussie Hoops awesome Andrew Bogut.
Bogut has depended on the Giddey train all season, naming the up-and-coming Boomers guard the NBA’s Australian Player of the Week five times on his podcast Rogues Bogues.
“In my opinion, Josh Giddey is the best Australian basketball player in the world to date,” Bogut said via Twitter.
“Josh is getting better and better and I’m really excited about his growth.”
Bogut’s high praise for Giddey is no coincidence given the guard’s significant statistical improvement this season.
He shot just 26.3 percent from angles in his rookie campaign — a number that has risen to 32.6 this season.
Giddey has also improved his field goal percentage (41.9 to 48.4 percent) and free throw percentage (70.9 to 79.7).
He recently had the statistically best week of his career, both in terms of goals and his overall line, when he averaged 22.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.25 assists per game.
Distinguished voices like Bogut have been blown away by Giddey’s continued brilliance, which has helped propel a rebuilt OKC Thunder side within playoffs reach.
The Thunder are currently just two wins outside of the play-in tournament and sit eleventh in the Western Conference.
Giddey credits his growth, particularly on offense, to working with legendary shooting coach Chip Engelland.
Engelland, an assistant coach at the Thunder, spent 17 years with the San Antonio Spurs, working with the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Dejounte Murray.
Now Giddey benefits from the expertise of the experienced trainer.
“I took full advantage of it and went to the gym every day to work with Chip,” Giddey told News Corp.
“He’s always in my ear, talking to me and texting me when he’s not out with us.
“A lot of that is confidence. He (Chip) hasn’t tried to change too much and the shot feels good.
“Hopefully I’m going in the right direction, and Chip has played a big part in that.
“He was great for me.
“Having the Thunder have that kind of care and passion for me to get better, to bring someone like him (Chip) really meant a lot.”
Giddey’s success on the NBA stage has brought smiles to many in Australia, including Melbourne United manager Dean Vickerman.
Vickerman played alongside Josh’s father, Warrick, with the now-defunct Melbourne Tigers of the NBL in the early ’90s.
The United mentor couldn’t be prouder that Giddey junior is following in his father’s footsteps but making his own path in the NBA.
“Wazza was an exceptional passer and defender, but now that Josh has that size, vision and understanding to read quickly what people are going to do, I just love watching him play and pass,” said Vickerman, who himself also recently got in touch with Warrick to tell him: “enjoy being an NBA dad”.
“If you’re a lover of people sharing basketball, you’re a lover of Josh Giddey.
“To see him step into the three now with the confidence that he has takes him to a whole different level.”
Vickerman believes Giddey’s level could even make him an All-Star in the years to come, which could help him join Ben Simmons as the only Australian to appear in the NBA’s marquee.
“If Josh continues like this, I hope to see him in this All-Star Game,” he said.
Josh Giddey’s OKC Thunder hosts the Cleveland Cavaliers Saturday from 12 p.m. (AEDT)
Originally released as Boomers World Cup squad: teen giant Rocco Zikarsky on Australian radar as selectors scout for talent
https://www.codesports.com.au/sport/rising-boomer-josh-giddey-hailed-australias-leading-nba-player/news-story/f313f3977be1596763c61a61854be188?nk=6013979ed39921e8e67fcf7f03938c3c-1675128487 Basketball News 2022: 7-foot teenager Rocco Zikarsky will make Boomer’s debut in FIBA World Cup qualifiers