Sydney Kings basketball star Julian Khazzouh said he’s never tasted Filipino cuisine before, and he’s just waiting for a dinner invite.
On any given Sunday, you can find Filipino men in one of two places – the church or a basketball court. That's because for many Filipinos, basketball is also a religion.
In Australia, particularly in Sydney, many Filipinos fill the seats of the Sydney Entertainment Theatre when the home team, the Sydney Kings, are playing. There was even one game that started with pre-games between Filipino-Australian teams, organised by Hoopdreamz director (www.hoopdreamz.com.au) and self-confessed basketball tragic, Marco Selorio.
In the Kings’ comeback season, one player stood out: Julian Khazzouh. Weighing 100kg and a towering 209cm (6’11), Khazzouh was a formidable opponent on court, and his consistently high scores on many games won him the hearts of many ardent Filo-Aussie b-ball fans.
The Australian Filipina caught up with him a few minutes just before the Kings won their match against the Adelaide 36ers. In the interview, Khazzouh gives aspiring basketball players some tips.
AF: Julian, thanks for joining us. Congratulations on your recent win.
Khazzouh: Thank you very much. It was good to get that win. We’ll hope to carry that on tonight.
AF: For those of our readers who don’t know much about you, can you tell us when did you start playing professional basketball and what are your aspirations?
Khazzouh: I didn’t actually start playing basketball until later, probably last year of primary school, first year of high school. 13-years old. I played rugby league before that but as I got older, I started growing taller. Football is not really a game for tall men so I got into the game that I’m into now. And in the future, for me to represent the country, that would be an awesome honour.
AF: Umm, how tall are you?
AF: That’s like the height of two Filipinos stacked on top of each other.
AF: Again, for your Filipino fans, there are a lot of them tonight here, to give support.
Khazzouh: First of all, thank you for coming to support us. You guys love the sport so come out and watch the game. I love playing for you guys.
AF: So I have to say that Filipinos aren’t exactly the tallest people on earth but we still try and shoot some hoops, any tips for up-and-coming bball players?
Khazzouh: Work on your fundamentals. Sure you can go out there and start dunking or whatever, but if you work on your fundamentals, you’re going to be successful, so I think that’s one of the most important thing. Getting into the gym, shooting, working on your game…
AF: I do have to ask, 13 straight games of not winning and winning the 14th game. How does it feel to have to go through those first 13 games?
Khazzouh: It’s tough. Obviously, everybody wants to win but now, we’ve got the win so we’re just looking at the future now to win more.
AF: Certainly your fans are not just going to look at this year but this decade or more, what is your strategy?
Khazzouh: This year’s really about building and getting better. Getting a group of guys to make it successful next year. We knew we weren’t going to win this year but we are building a foundation for the years to come so in three- four years, we are top 2 or 3 … the best.
AF: The Filo-Aus community loves to support Filipino-Australians who are successful in their field. What’s been the reception of the Lebanese community like with you success on the court?
Khazzouh: It’s great. I go to a lot of schools. I go out there and talk to the kids. My father is Lebanese and I told them where he came from and how I was brought up, you just look at their eyes and you can see [what they’re thinking] that if I can do it, they can do it.
AF: As long as they're 180,000 metres in height.
Khazzouh: [laughs] It’s not even about basketball necessarily. They can play whatever sport they want and try their best.
AF: On a more personal note, what’s been the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you on the court?
Khazzouh: It was when I was playing for the Parramatta Wildcats. And I had the ball on the three-point line going in to the direction. But kids on the sideline started to count 5-4-3-2-1. So I pegged the ball for the three-quarter court shot but then I looked at the clock and there was still 6 minutes to the game. The crowd went crazy and started laughing at me and I was there just red-faced and really embarrassed.
AF: Never again, eh?
Khazzouh: Never again.
AF: Favourite food?
Khazzouh: I’d have to say my girlfriend’s seafood risotto.
AF: Have you ever tried Filipino food?
Khazzouh: Not really but I’ve grown up trying all sorts of food so I’d be happy to try it.
AF: We’ll have to invite you to come to dinner at some point.
Khazzouh: Marco [Selorio] has. He’s invited me to dinner so I’m sure he’ll put out a good course.
Michelle: Finally, good luck on your game tonight. Final word to your supporters?
Khazzouh: Once again, thank you for coming out and we’ll have a couple of beers when we win.
Post-script: The Kings didn’t make the play-offs this year but will be back on the court next season. Khazzouh is playing centre again and in the meantime has spent a month in the US doing some training with NBA teams.
Photos courtesy of www.sydneykings.com. To find out about the basketball season next year, go to www.sydneykings.com.