COACH Gary van Egmond likened Ben Kantarovski to a young Ned Zelic or Paul Okon after the just-turned 17-year-old took two major awards at the Newcastle Jets presentation dinner last night.Kantarovski was presented the Rising Star and Player of the Year awards after a ground-breaking rookie A-League season.Zelic and Okon are both former captains of the Newcastle Jets, but their tenure came after long and impressive careers in Europe.Capped 33 times for the Socceroos, Zelic was rated one of the best players Australia has produced and spent the majority of his career in the German Bundesliga at Borussia Dortmund and 1860 Munich.Okon played in the Serie A at Lazio and Fiorentina and at Premier League clubs Middlesbrough and Leeds United.Kantarovski made his A-League debut in the season opener against Central Coast at just 16 years of age and went on to play 13 matches, all in the starting side. That number would have undoubtedly been greater if not for national team commitments with the under 17s and under 20s."If we look at the season as a whole, he was the most consistent player," van Egmond said of the teenager."He was in the top three in most games and deserves the recognition."He is not unlike some of the better ones [in Australia] who have gone on to do really well."He reminds a number of us of similar but not exactly the same the likes of Zelic, Okon, even a young Ljubo Milicevic."They seem to have time on the ball and know the game well very early."After debuting at right back, Kantarovski has been used as a central defender, attacking midfielder and holding midfielder.Not at any stage did he look uncomfortable."He is obviously a real talent and one who has a bright future," the coach said."His best position is as a central midfielder."His technique is good, his reading of the game is good, his passing range needs a bit of work, but if he keeps improving, the world is his oyster."Turkish clubs have already made approaches for Kantarovski, who has two years to run on his contract at the Jets.For now his focus is on completing his Higher School Certificate at Lambton High School and leading the Young Socceroos at the under-20 World Cup in August."This year is big for him," van Egmond said."He has his HSC, he has the under-20 World Cup coming up as well as the Asian Champions League and the A-League. It is a massive year for a 17-year-old boy."The real good ones start [overseas] early."He has plenty of potential, and I would be amazed if he stayed on our shores too much longer."I think what is vitally important is that when he goes overseas, he goes to a good club."The one thing we were happy about with James Holland was that he went to a really good club in AZ Alkmaar."Especially when they are younger, it is important to go to a club which has good coaching and structures that they can learn from."He needs to get to an Ajax, an Arsenal, Bayern Munich or a Barcelona."Matt Thompson and Tarek Elrich capped a year in which they went from solid A-League players to Socceroos with an award each.Elrich was named players' player and the ever-consistent Thompson took out the members' player of the year.Retiring midfielder Noel Spencer was awarded the clubman of the year and striker Brodie Mooy collected the youth league player of the year.Kantarovski and company did not have much time to celebrate last night as they back up for a trial against Northern NSW heavyweights Edgeworth at Ray Watt Oval this morning.