Wollongong's Kyle Zunic looks to launch US college career with Winthrop

On the rise: Wollongong's Kyle Zunic drives to the basket at the NBL Combine at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre on Tuesday. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

On the rise: Wollongong's Kyle Zunic drives to the basket at the NBL Combine at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre on Tuesday. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

RISING Wollongong talent Kyle Zunic has been compared to NBA championship winner Matthew Dellavedova, as he prepares to launch his US college career.

Zunic last week signed a letter of intent with South Carolina’s Winthrop University, the same college Xavier Cooks, the son of Illawarra Hawks assistant coach Eric Cooks, has made home.

Coming from the Australian Centre of Excellence, Zunic has played in the national under 19 and 17 teams.

In making the agreement with the WInthrop Eagles, Zunic received the highest of praise from coach Pat Kelsey.

“Kyle has competed at the highest global level of youth basketball,” Kelsey said.

“He brings a Matthew Dellavedova-type toughness to our program. He has a very high basketball IQ, whose learning curve to the college game will be very short.”

Dellavedova, who played for US college St Mary’s, won the 2015-16 NBA championship alongside LeBron James at the Cleveland Cavaliers, before moving to Milwaukee.

Victorian centre Tom Pupavac was also signed on as a Winthrop prospect, with Kelsey declaring it was reflection of the level of talent coming through the Australian ranks. Cooks was a star in the Eagles campaign this year, as they finished 26-7 for the season and an NCAA tournament appearance.

"Winthrop Basketball has established an incredible foot print in Australia," Kelsey said on the Winthrop website.

“The signing of two high level prospects like Kyle and Tom is another sign of how our brand is gaining momentum in the basketball rich country down under.

“The coach at Basketball Australia's Centre of Excellence, Adam Caporn, who is one of the best amateur coaches in the world, raves about Kyle and Tom's basketball futures."

Cooks averaged 16.5 points per game, as well as nine rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 blocks in 29 minutes of playing time, across 33 games. Zunic’s move comes as Hawks squad member Angus Glover begins the rehabilitation process for an anterior cruciate ligament knee injury. Glover, who will chase an NBL contract next season after initially signing to play in the US at St Mary’s, is at least six months away from full fitness.

The 19-year-old was named in the world select team this year, after being part of the Australian under 19 world championships squad in 2015.

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