Clint Capela's Soccer Background Evident in Silky Footwork and Rapid Development

The 23-year-old Houston Rockets center grew up as a youth soccer star in Switzerland. He believes that background has been pivotal to his NBA success.

Clint Capela might measure in at nearly 7 feet tall, yet he has the feet of a ballerina.

The 23-year-old Houston Rockets center is a magnificent athlete, and his unique blend of power and finesse often freezes opponents. Just look at these graceful euro steps:

Moves like that are a big reason why Capela is currently averaging career highs in points (14.0), rebounds (11.3) and blocks (1.8) per game. He's also shooting an absurd 69.4% from the field.

One reason Capela is emerging as one of the game's brightest young stars? His soccer background. Growing up as a kid in Switzerland, Capela's first passion was soccer. He played as a forward and loved the thrill of breaking through a defense. He idolized French national team striker Thierry Henry. "I was a striker. I used to score goals," Capela told Sports Illustrated. But when he already measured 6-foot-3 at 13 years old, his eldest brother suggested his height would be of better use in a different sport—basketball. Capela gave the sport a shot and the rest is history, but he believes his many years of youth soccer played an invaluable role in his athletic development.

"The footwork in soccer is a major part of the game. So as soon as I started playing basketball I was better. It was more easy for me than my teammates to make my first layup. To get those two steps. It was more easy for me learn a Eurostep. It took me less time to learn all those first steps in basketball because of soccer," Capela told

Capela's experience made him a firm believer in the value of playing multiple sports as a youth. "I think kids need to try all those other activities and sports so they don't make the wrong choice," Capela says.

Soccer, in particular, seems to be an excellent choice for pre-teen athletes. Even if it doesn't end up being their favorite or best sport, the footwork and skills it teaches them at a young age will prove to be invaluable in their athletic development. That's why University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh believes every boy who dreams of one day playing college football should start by playing youth soccer.

Photo Credit: Tim Warner/Getty Images