It almost seems a pre-requisite that modern-day draftees have a basketball history.

The phrase ‘basketball background’ appears in draft biographies almost as often as ‘hard-running’ midfielder or ‘strong-marking key forward.’

Fremantle’s Zac Clarke is the latest emerging star to step off the court and on to the footy field and admits he is still learning the game after coming to it relatively late.

“I did Auskick when I was a little tacker then focused on basketball most of the way through my childhood. I only picked it up when I was 15 again, just playing in the local junior footy team. I played a year or two then I went to Oakleigh under-18s,” Clarke said.

“To be honest I never took it overly seriously. It was just a bit of fun. Even in that year at Oakleigh I was working full-time and saw it as something I enjoyed doing on the weekend.”

Clarke says there are plenty of parallels between the two sports which might explain the trend of players crossing over.

“There have been a few coming through recently. I think there’s a lot of in-close work with quick reflexes and fast hand-eye co-ordination,” he said.

“I think it’s pretty easily transferrable.”

His football career has gone from strength to strength and has been capped with a round 20 nomination for the NAB AFL Rising Star.

2011 is Clarke’s third year with Fremantle and by far his most productive. After managing just eight games in his first two seasons, he has played nine so far this year.

His increased game time has come partially because of his own development and also Fremantle’s circumstances, which were thrown into disarray when Aaron Sandilands injured his toe.

Clarke says the All Australian ruckman has been one of his closest mentors as he fills his breach.

“It’s a big loss not having him out there but at the same time it’s been a good opportunity for me to improve my game and play some regular AFL football. It has been helpful,” he said.

“We’ve got Spider Burton here as well and he’s been really good. He is probably our main ruck coach. While Aaron’s been out he’s always up for giving me a few tips or going through tapes.”

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