Junior star returns to the court

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Mitchell WoodcockSouth Western Times
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Family took priority over basketball for former college and State Basketball League centre Sam Sopolinski.

The 213cm Collie-raised athlete was once touted as a promising WA talent, training with the Perth Wildcats and spending time in the United States college basketball system.

But the 27-year-old selflessly put his two children before his sporting goals and went to work full-time, leaving a promising career in the rear vision mirror.

Sopolinski now juggles being a single father with 10-hour shifts on mines doing shutdown work.

“I do work a lot of hours so it is hard to have a social or hobby-filled life,” he said.

Sopolinski said he sometimes found it “difficult” to judge being a father, work and basketball.

“It is definitely a challenge,” he said.

One of Sopolinski’s career highlights was being picked in the Under-19 Emus Australian Basketball Squad in 2008 alongside NBA star Matthew Dellavedova as well as National Basketball League players Cody Ellis and Matt Hodgson and Australian representative Brock Motum.

“It was a good experience,” he said.

“I have memories of the whole thing. The challenges and how hard the work was as well as the things I learnt from it.

“As well as the fun I had training with new guys and meeting them.”

Sopolinski said although he enjoyed his time as a college basketballer at Missouri State, it was not for him.

“I was just there for the one year before I decided that I wanted to come back home,” he said.

“I didn’t think it was what it was going to be.

“I found college wasn’t for me. But I definitely learnt from it.

“It is demanding on your life, playing and going to school every day.

“Prior to that I was spending a lot of time in Perth playing SBL and training with the Perth Wildcats.

“I played for East Perth Eagles and at the time I was working part-time. I wouldn’t take it back.

“It was good to see behind the scenes what the pro player goes through. What sort of life that they live and how hard it is.”

Now his two girls are older, Sopolinski is back playing A-Grade basketball for Aces White in the Bunbury Basketball Association and is looking towards a possible future SBL career.

“I got the itch to play again, so I have been getting fit in the gym,” he said.

“I see A-Grade as the starting block and I may have another crack at the SBL again one day if I can get my body right.

“It is hard being a single father and juggling that with work and basketball commitments – especially at an SBL level.

“But SBL is something I have set in my sights.”

Sopolinski said he was enjoying being part of a team again.

“It has been a bit of an adjustment,” he said.

“It feels pretty fresh getting back into it.”

Sopolinski said that if he could not get back on an SBL list, he would like to give back to young players.

“I help with a young group of guys in Collie by playing alongside them and mentoring,” he said.

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