A BASKETBALLER for much of his teenage years, Ollie Dempsey returned to footy only a few years ago to play with friends.
On Sunday, the 19-year-old will make his debut for Geelong against North Melbourne at Blundstone Arena in Hobart.
Dempsey, a point guard on the basketball court, was picked up by the Cats at No.15 in the 2021 NAB AFL Rookie Draft after catching their eye playing school football with Melbourne's Carey Grammar.
"The fact that Ollie is in our squad speaks to how far he's come in such a short space of time," Geelong coach Chris Scott said on Friday.
"He was really ... a couple of years ago, a basketballer.
"He didn't decide that he wanted to play footy until really recently and was plucked out of, really, a few games of old boys footy."
Dempsey, who tips the scales at just 70kg, has been selected in the half-forward line in a Geelong side missing superstar midfielder Patrick Dangerfield (calf) and defender Jack Henry (foot).
He played footy in his early teenage years before switching to basketball.
Dempsey has started the year strongly for the Cats in the VFL, kicking three goals in round one and four goals in round three.
"To use the old cliche around the basketball players and spatial awareness, it looks like he's picked up what we're trying to do really quickly," Scott said.
"He's performed well at VFL level. He will develop physically over the years, as all young players do.
"He doesn't rely on his strength necessarily, he's a bit more of an elusive player. (He has) good skills for a guy who hasn't played much footy, and a bit of X-factor about him."
The Cats have recalled veteran Shaun Higgins as well as Jake Kolodjashnij as they attempt to bounce back from a shock 12-point loss to Hawthorn.
North Melbourne, meanwhile, has regained Cam Zurhaar and Tarryn Thomas and have named a debutant of their own in 19-year-old forward Paul Curtis.
The Kangaroos are 1-4 to begin the year and are coming off a 68-point Good Friday thrashing at the hands of the Western Bulldogs.