Paul Tsapatolis will lead Vic Metro’s title defence at the under-16 national basketball championships in Perth next month.

As the standout player in his age group in Victoria, the 14-year-old centre has been named captain.

Tsapotlis was the first bottom-age player to hit the court as part of the gold medal-winning U16 Big V team last year since top NBA draft pick Ben Simmons.

“To make it again and be captain is even better as it means I’m going on the right path,” the young basketballer told Star Weekly.

But his skill goes beyond the court, with the Year 9 student also excelling academically at Maribyrnong College, an achievement recognised by Basketball Victoria awarding him young athlete of the year for 2016.

“It was a very big surprise,” said Tsapotlis.

“When they announced my name, I had the biggest shock.
“It’s about me [collectively] as a person, as much as on the basketball court.
“Coaches don’t just speak about on the court, they talk about off the court and how you communicate, what you do on your off days, do you do homework or do you party.
“It’s the biggest award that I’ve had.”

Tsapatolis already stands at 205 centimetres tall but says he recognises that in today’s game height not is not enough to make it, and he is committed to go the extra mile.

“With the centres in this generation, it’s not like back then with [former NBA great] Shaquille O’Neal, where you had to be big and dunk over anyone and just rebound and you don’t have to shoot,” he said.

“Now it’s a lot like [current NBA stars] DeMarcus Cousins and Marc Gasol, especially the European centres, they can do everything; they pass, dribble, rebound, score, shoot threes and have to be as much as a guard as a centre.”

The Point Cook local now has his sights set on the tournament commencing on 8 July, where he is sure to impress coaches and scouts.

“If the U16s nationals work out well and I do dominate, I presume I’ll get offers from AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) coaches,” Tsapatolis said, and for whom it would be a dream come true.

The young player has also been named the June nominee of the Deeble Deeble Rising Star Award by the Sunshine Western Region Sports Club and Star Weekly, which recognises young, high achieving athletes from the western suburbs who have achieved outstanding results at state and/or national levels.