BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Simone Fontecchio is one of the youngest players to have received a call from head coach Simone Pianigiani |
Italy's senior and U20 national teams have made the best of the BEKO All-Star Game break as they were put through their paces at a training camp in the city of Ancona this week.
The exhibition game which will see the senior Italian side clash with a team made up of Serie A's best foreign players takes place on Sunday, but all clubs (with the exception of EA7 Emporio Armani Milano who are involved in Euroleague action on Friday) released their international players immediately after last weekend's league games.
Evidently, the quartet of Italy's NBA players (Marco Belinelli, Gigi Datome and the injured Andrea Bargani and Danilo Gallinari) were also unable to attend this week's training camp.
The occasion none the less provided a number of young players with the chance to work out with the senior national team and submit their candidacy for a place on the Italian squad that will compete in August in the EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualification Round.
Among them was new Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia signing and last year's U20 European Championship MVP, Amedeo Della Valle, his team-mate on that U20 gold-winning side Awudu Abass, as well as 20-year-old Amedeo Tessitori and 19-year-old Simone Fontecchio.
Italy head coach Simone Pianigiani is aware that being able to have several days of practice at this stage of the club season is a rare luxury for most national team coaches.
"This break is very important to us, but not so much for the work that is being done, because at this moment, which is key for most clubs' campaigns, our priority is to respect the athletes and their physical condition," Pianigiani said.
"But it is important in order to remember, unify and consolidate our common technical language, between technical staff and players, and check the condition of the guys.
"I need to thank all the clubs for their punctual collaboration (with the federation)."
Pietro Aradori and Marco Cusin, who had helped Italy reach the quarter-finals of EuroBasket 2013, as well as first-time senior international Giovanni Pini of Reggio Emilia, suffered minor injuries and were released from the training camp.
The Italy squad that Pianigiani will have at his disposal in Sunday's All-Star Game therefore consists of Awudu Abass, Riccardo Cervi, Andrea Cinciarini, David Cournooh, Andrea De Nicolao, Amedeo Della Valle, Simone Fontecchio, Stefano Gentile, Daniele Magro, Valerio Mazzola, Achille Polonara, Amedeo Tessitori, Luca Vitali, Michele Vitali and Andrea Zerini, to which Nicolo Melli and Daniel Hackett (Alessandro Gentile is injured) of Milano might be added by Sunday.
Italy were drawn in Group G of the 2nd Qualifying Round, together with Russia and Switzerland.
|Matteo Imbro missed training camp due to injury, but is expected to play a key role at the U20 European Championship this summer|
The U20 Italian team meanwhile had only three days of preparations but head coach Stefano Sacripanti was very pleased with the results.
"We had 17 guys here and it was much more than a just a get-together, as we even managed to work on several technical details."
"Overall, this year's team will have more centimetres, more kilos and perhaps even more athleticism than the 2013 side."
Last summer in Estonia, under the masterful guidance of Sacripanti, Italy conquered the gold medal at the U20 European Championship despite being by far the smallest in size team in the tournament.
The U20 Italy coach will select his 12-man squad that have the tough task of defending that title in this summer's U20 European Championship in Crete from 18 candidates, the 17 present in Ancona plus point guard Matteo Imbro, who was injured and did not attend the training camp.
Italy will face Croatia, Turkey and the Czech Republic in First Round Group C at the U20 European Championship, which tips off on 8 July.