NBL: Teenage giant Rocco Zikarsky ready to deliver for the Brisbane Bullets

Brisbane Bullets coach Justin Schueller has tipped teenage giant Rocco Zikarsky to remain “grounded” despite the “outside noise” certain to accompany the 220cm colossus wherever he goes during his debut NBL season.

Having signed with the Bullets in July as part of the NBL’s Next Stars program, 17-year-old Zikarsky is poised to make his competition debut on Friday night when Brisbane opens its season at Nissan Arena against the Adelaide 36ers.

Schueller, who will coach the Bullets for the first time at NBL level after being appointed in February soon after the completion of the club’s poor 2021-22 campaign, said Zikarsky had already exceeded expectations in the pre-season.

“From when we signed him and where we thought he’d be, he’s way ahead of that,” Schueller said.

“He’s asking me for minutes. His performances have shown that he can hold his own and deserves some opportunities.

“We’re really fortunate in that (centre) position to have three guys that we believe in, that we trust.”

Of the three, Zikarsky is third in the pecking order behind Boomers great Aron Baynes and Tyrell Harrison.

“But there’s an opportunity for Rocco as well,” Schueller said.

“On any given night we feel like we can absolutely win that position.”

Having also coached Zikarsky at national under-17 level, Schueller said there was no risk of the Sunshine Coast product “getting ahead of himself”.

“We don’t have to worry about that. It’s definitely hard because there’s constant chat about him, but at the same time, he’s such a good kid and so well grounded,” the Bullets coach said.

“His daily habits and his work are always constant – that’s what we’re worried about. The outside noise can be the outside noise.”

In a huge week for Brisbane sport, Schueller said the Bullets were determined to show on Friday night that they could emulate the feats of the AFL’s Lions and the NRL’s Broncos who have the chance to win their respective premierships this weekend.

“We’re so happy for the Lions and the Broncos to be in that position,” he said.

“We want to turn Brisbane into a title town, so they can get the ball rolling and we’ll come up at the back end of our season and try to take care of it from there.”

The Bullets have won three NBL titles in their history, with Schueller revealing that a fourth blank banner would be part of the “imagery” presented to Brisbane players to remind them of the task ahead of them.

“We want it to be front of mind for the group,” Schueller said.

“We’re a foundation club that has had history and success. That’s now our job as this next crew coming through to make sure we’re not missing out on players, we’re not missing out on opportunities for championships, and that we build a sustainable program that can go do that.”

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