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Zisis Sarikopolous is known as ‘Z’ to his teammates

Transfer of Power
7-footer Zisis Sarikopoulos has taken an indirect route to Columbus

By Kyle Rowland, Ohio State Athletics Communications 

It took only one visit to the Ohio State campus for Zisis Sarikopoulos to know he wanted to become a Buckeye. There is much more to be said, however, of the journey that led him to Columbus. It starts in Athens, Greece and makes a detour through Birmingham, Ala.

The 7-foot sophomore center, who at 12-years old was 6-7 and could dunk, was a phenom playing for his native Greece in two international championship tournaments. In 2007, he roomed with former Ohio State player Kosta Koufus during the Euro Championships. Sarikopoulos averaged 7.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.1 steals. It was that performance that led him to the United States.

Michael Jordan selected Sarikopoulos as the MVP from Greece and invited him to New York City to compete in the Jordan Brand All-American Classic at Madison Square Garden.

“It was amazing,” Sarikopoulos said. “He was very approachable and talkative. To be able to talk to arguably the greatest basketball player ever about the game was an incredible experience.”

After that visit to America, Sarikopoulos knew he was going to come to the United States to play college basketball.

“It is the best path for me to take,” Sarikopoulos said. “The education system in the United States is great and the competition level of NCAA basketball is very high.”

After spending last season at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Sarikopoulos felt the style of Ohio State and the Big Ten better suited his game. However, he did return to Greece over the summer to help lead his home country to the gold medal in the European Championships. For the tournament, he averaged 10.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and blocked a total of 18 shots.

Sarikopoulos returned to the United States following the tournament and completed his transfer from UAB by enrolling at Ohio State. The people were the most important factor for Sarikopoulos and he is very happy with his decision to become a Buckeye.

“I really liked Ohio State when I visited,” Sarikopoulos said. “I met all my coaches and teammates and really felt comfortable with my surroundings. Coach Matta makes you feel like you are apart of a family.”

“My parents and I thought it was a no-brainer since I had such a good relationship with everyone.”

Even though his family is thousands of miles away, he still has daily communication with them.

“Last year, at times, I got really home sick and could not believe I was so far away from my family,” Sarikopoulos said. “I talk to them maybe three times a day now. They always want to know how I am doing with school and basketball. We are even able to set up video conferences, so we can see each other some days.”

Because of the NCAA transfer rules, Sarikopoulos must sit out this season. He is able to participate in practice, though, which allows him to go up against fellow 7-footer B.J. Mullens, 6-9 Kyle Madsen and 6-8 Dallas Lauderdale, who has become a shot-blocking machine in his second season with the Buckeyes.

“This redshirt year is really going to improve my game,” Sarikopoulos said. “I will be able to get stronger and going against B.J. and Dallas every day is going to be a huge benefit for my game.”

It is not all basketball for Sarikopoulos, though. He takes pride in his academic successes and has a game plan for life after basketball.

“I would love to play professionally,” Sarikopoulos said. “But careers end because of injuries and basketball has an expiration date, so I would love to become an agent.”

“I am studying business management so hopefully it can help me in the future.”