Whether he comprehends it or not, Mika Vukona has made a career out of inspiring and leading team-mates - but now it's part of his job description.
With all the changes in this year's Tall Blacks roster, the Fijian-born power forward has emerged as one of the its veterans and was very early named as team captain by coach Nenad Vucinic, the man who gave Vukona his first opportunity as a teenager in the National Basketball League 12 years ago with Nelson.
The only player left in the 2012 national line-up who's been there longer is point guard Lindsay Tait (30), who debuted in 2003, while American-born Casey Frank (34) entered the programme with Vukona two years later. In a team with an average of 26, the onus of leadership now falls to this trio.
"I guess Nenad gave me the job because of my experience and he believes in me," says Vukona. "We haven't talked about it yet.
"But it's something I'm pretty honoured to carry - leading any team - and I take it on board with open arms. I think anyone would feel the same way.
"I'm pretty chuffed about it and hope to do a good job."
Vukona's previous experiences as skipper have been through age-group teams, both at national and international level. In the meantime, he's been content to support some great leaders and players like Pero Cameron and Kirk Penney with the Tall Blacks, and the likes of Dillon Boucher, Paul Henare, CJ Bruton and Tony Ronaldson at the NZ Breakers.
But over those years, he's also become a leader in his own right - someone his team-mates look to for inspiration in the heat of battle. His style has been more in deed than in word.
No one will soon forget the difference he made when he shrugged off a season-ending knee injury to elevate the NZ Breakers to their first Australian NBL title last year. Vukona's passion and "follow me" attitude, often to his own physical detriment, are qualities every team he faces wishes they had.
Now he must formally embrace that role with the "C" next to his name.
"I guess I've been a guy that stands off a bit, and watches and absorbs information from those other guys," says Vukona, preparing for the Tall Blacks' first semi-competitive hit-out against an Emerging Boomers selection in Canberra.
"Hopefully, I'll be able to take a little bit of every one of them and work it into my own mould. I'm not going to change anything I do out on court, but it will be more about how I communicate with them - same off the court - and express thoughts and feelings through the team.
"To be a leader in any sport, you need to find a good balance, not just through actions. I'll need to be more vocal as well, but that'll be a good test for me."
After the Breakers' second championship-winning campaign and Nelson's early exit from this year's NBL, Vukona (30) ensured his body took time out to recover from the pounding he subjects it to. He's now hungry to rip into the international season and next month's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela.
The Tall Blacks are currently at the Australian Institute of Sport, where informal scrimmages provide the first chance for this squad - with four rookies and at least one likely in the starting line-up - to become familiar with each other.
"It's going well," he insists. "I'm really excited about this team - and that's what it is, a team.
"Even though we're quite new, we're all playing for each other, which is what every Tall Blacks team should do.
"Cohesion is going to be really important to this team, just knowing how to play together. That means knowing our rules on offence and defence, and really nailing them."
The Tall Blacks leave Canberra tomorrow for Sao Paulo, Brazil, where they face their first serious challenge of the itinerary - the home team on Wednesday (NZ time) - as part of a four-nation tournament that also features Greece and Nigeria.