By Lance Jenkinson
A stellar year on the basketball court has landed Paul Tsapatolis the 2019 Don Deeble Rising Star award.
Tsapatolis, from Point Cook, was crowned the Deeble champion at the annual awards night at the Deer Park Club last Wednesday night, taking out the top gong ahead of nine other worthy nominees.
The runners up were Footscray rower Samuel Wilson and Altona hockey player Connar Otterbach, while encouragement awards went to footballer Lucas Rocci and sprinter Matthew Payne.
Tsapatolis was nominated for the Deeble award in 2017 but missed out and it spurred him to work even harder to eventually take out the top youth sports honour in the western suburbs.
“I got nominated two years ago and it was a great experience being the monthly winner,” Tsapatolis said.
“Then going to the major awards night and didn’t get anything, I clearly wasn’t good enough, so I needed to work harder.
“The last two years, I’ve worked hard and last year and so far this year it’s starting to pay off.”
Tsapatolis will cherish the memories of 2019.
The Deeble honour was the cherry on the top for the 17 year-old, having experienced such incredible highs last year.
Taking out a title with Victoria at the under 18 national championships was a relief for Tsapatolis.
“I didn’t win a nationals for three years after my first one in under 16s,“ he said.
“That was definitely one of the highlights.” Tsapatolis, a Maribyrnong College student, went on to represent Australia at the Oceania championships.
As the starting centre in the green and gold, Tsapatolis had an incredible tournament, playing a key role in his team’s triumph and then earning all star five honours.
“Never in a million years did I think about making an all star five, let alone representing Australia again,” he said.
“It’s something that not many people get to do, playing for your country and winning all star five.
“You never really expect it when you’re playing junior basketball and even at the tournament I didn’t expect it.
“To get that was pretty surreal.”
If you think that basketball is all that is on Tsapatolis’s mind, think again.
Tsapatolis was a talented junior in Australian rules football playing for Yarraville Seddon and a door could be opening up for him to move into the AFL system.
A six-foot-seven ruckman with endurance, Tsapatolis is trialling for multiple AFL clubs in a bid to impress for a category B rookie spot on an AFL list.
Tsapatolis is not turning his back on basketball, more so keeping his options open.
Tsapatolis received $5000, donated by the Yarraville Club Cricket Club, for winning the Deeble award for 2019, while Wilson and Otterbach received $2500 each.
Rocci and Payne walked away with $1000 each, thanks to sponsors Strathmore Community Bank and Deer Park Club.
The volunteers at the Sunshine and Western Region Sports Club do tremendous work throughout the year honouring the most talented young sports people in the western suburbs through monthly and annual dinners.