|06 March 2013|
|Angelo Gigli and Italy went undefeated in last summer's EuroBasket 2013 Qualification Round|
Italy find themselves in an unknown position, one that no one on the national team has experienced in the past, ahead of EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia.
Next September's big event tips off just ten days after the tenth anniversary of Italy's against-all-odds 69-67 win over a young Tony Parker's France in the bronze medal game of EuroBasket 2003, in Sweden.
The Azzuri followed up their last European success with a glorious silver medal in the Athens Olympics, in 2004.
But in the eight years that followed, Italy underperformed and gradually seized to be mentioned among the medal contenders in big tournaments, for the first time since the orange ball game arrived in Europe.
They finished in 17th place at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, their lowest in history.
Then suddenly last summer, the Italian team swept all before them and finished as the best team in the entire EuroBasket Qualification Round.
Italian fans, quite understandably, are a bit confused and not sure whether they should expect to witness a resurgence in Slovenia.
"We shouldn't create excessive expectations, but in Slovenia we'll do our duty," Angelo Gigli tried to simplify the situation when asked in an interview on SKY TV.
Gigli has been there throughout the highs and the lows, and his opinion matters.
The Virtus Bologna power forward featured in all eight Qualification Round games last summer and has always responded to the national team's call since becoming a senior international at EuroBasket 2005.
"We have a good potential and I believe that we can do better compared to previous years," he said.
"We are conscious of our means and we'll try to do exactly what we know [how to do]."
Head coach Simone Pianigiani will travel to the USA later in March in order to hold talks with the trio of Italy's NBA players, Andrea Bargnani (Toronto Raptors), Marco Belinelli (Chicago Bulls) and Danilo Gallinari (Denver Nuggets).
Gallinari was the only one of the three stars to play for Italy last summer, and led the team in scoring and rebounds
"Their ability to adapt to the European game, which is different from that of the NBA in several aspects, will make the difference," said Gigli.
"I have faith, we hope to discover immediately the right team chemistry and to improve upon the good things we did last summer."
The word 'immediately' is key, as Pianigiani has made clear he expects all players that will be present on the first day of training camp, on 29 July, to be 'fit and ready for five-on-five basketball.'
The coach has planned out a intense schedule, similar to last summer's preparations and full of friendly tournaments, because 'only by playing a lot and frequently we will be able to measure ourselves against the level of teams that we will face at the EuroBasket,' Pianigiani has said.
Italy will be the host of the Trento tournament and then will play warm-up games in Belgium, in Greece, and in Koper, the Slovenian town that will be the stage of First Round Group D at the EuroBasket.
The Azzurri were drawn in that group together with Russia, Greece, Turkey, Finland and Sweden.