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Young Gunner looks to follow Shaq's footsteps

When sifting through numerous offers from American colleges, Darcy Malone couldn't go past the one that produced the beast simply known as Shaq.

Now this Canberra teenager - all 213 centimetres of him - will follow the same path made famous by the greatest centre of his generation, Shaquille O'Neal, after accepting a basketball scholarship with Louisiana State University.

O'Neal's rim-rocking feats with LSU in the late 1980s and early '90s gave a glimpse of the destruction he would create in a career featuring four NBA championships and 15 NBA All-Star appearances.

Malone was a part of Australia's silver-medal winning team at last year's under-19 world titles and visited LSU's campus at Baton Rouge in January.

The 18-year-old admitted the idea of playing at the same school where O'Neal learnt his craft was a deciding factor in his decision. ''Being a centre like myself, it's a big goal to become like him, play like him and play in front of the crowds he used to have,'' Malone said.

''The fact they have such a great history of sending big men to the NBA is a great motivation for me to go there.


''I was talking to a few other schools, but I don't think anyone could have offered the same sort of scholarship LSU had. It was a no-brainer after I visited. It was a really good fit and I couldn't see myself going anywhere else.''

Malone would be kicking a Sherrin instead of sucking down rebounds like a vacuum cleaner if the Greater Western Sydney Giants had their way.

His grandfather played for Carlton, but despite regular calls from recruiters he has resisted the urge to switch to the AFL.

Malone will fly out at the end of this month to begin his four-year scholarship with LSU, a school where college football games draw 95,000 fans.

''The atmosphere is a whole other world, there's nothing like it in Australia,'' Malone said. ''I just need to find my place in the team and learn how to adapt to the American style.''

Malone has been gaining vital experience with the Canberra Gunners in the South-East Australian Basketball League, where he is often taking on more physical and stronger opponents.

''The Gunners have been a great help and I can't thank them enough,'' Malone said.

''You play against those big American imports and NBL guys, and that's going to be useful for college basketball.''