Datome To Lead Italy In Qualifiers

06 June 2014

EUROBASKET 2015 2nd QR

Luigi Datome (Italy)
Luigi Datome: "I did not play a lot this year and the national team competes at the highest level, so it will do me a lot of good"

Italy head coach Simone Pianigiani has clearly indicated that Detroit Pistons forward Luigi Datome will be the focal point of his team during their EuroBasket 2015 qualification campaign this summer.

Datome is the only one of Italy's four NBA players to have been included in a 15-strong preliminary list of players that underwent medical tests this week in Rome and will be available for warm-up games starting in July.

"Datome will be with us from the first day of preparations," Pianigiani said in a video interview with La Gazzetta Dello Sport.

"We have a generation of players who have grown and gained valuable experience at the highest international level with both their clubs and the national team," the coach said.

"For example Alessandro Gentile and Nicolo Melli were important last summer for Italy (at EuroBasket 2013) and then continued along the same lines with their club (EA7 Emporio Armani Milano) all year.

"Then we can think about the Reggio Emilia players, who had a great experience in Europe this season (Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia were crowned EuroChallenge champions in April) and can do the same in an Italy jersey this summer.

"It is obvious that Datome, who is already preparing with great determination in order to play this summer, could be an important leader for us in this journey."

Datome left Roma to join the Pistons after last September's EuroBasket, but saw limited action on the floor in his rookie NBA season.

"I am obviously very motivated and feel hungry to play again, I'm very eager for us to start," the 26-year-old forward said.

"I did not play a lot this year and the national team competes at the highest level, so it will do me a lot of good."

Datome however is reluctant to assume the role of Italy's new leader.

"I am fortunate to be playing on a national team that has plenty of great players," he said.

"We have played our best when we divided responsibility on the floor and our strength has been that a different player can step up and lead the team in any given game."

Italy, who claimed eighth place in last September's EuroBasket, aim to punch their ticket to EuroBasket 2015 from Group G of the 2nd Qualifying Round, which also includes Russia and Switzerland.

The participation however of Datome's fellow NBA colleagues Andrea Bargnani, Danilo Gallinari and Marco Belinelli will be limited, if it materialises at all.

Bargnani seems to be, at this point, the only member of this trio who is likely to have some involvement in the qualifying campaign.

Italy head coach Simone Pianigiani
Simone Pianigiani: "We have a generation of players who have grown and gained valuable experience at the highest international level"

"We spoke with Andrea, later we will examine with the entire staff what part (of his summer schedule) can coincide with our work in the summer and in a couple of weeks we will have a clearer idea," Pianigiani said.

"As for Gallo (Gallinari), he is serene after this tremendously unfortunate streak, he is feeling better and now he has a clear path to his rehabilitation."

Gallinari has been sidelined through injury since spring 2013 and of course missed out on last September's EuroBasket and the entire NBA season with the Denver Nuggets and will not return to action before autumn.

"Inside this context, I think it is a possibility that he will join us for a day or two during his rehabilitation, because as you know Gallo loves to feel part of the Italian team," Pianigiani said.

The Italy coach has also hinted that Belinelli will receive a well-deserved rest this summer, after the long play-off run with the San Antonio Spurs.

"He's already played more that 80 games this season and he has more coming up," Pianigiani said.

"I saw first hand when I visited him in San Antonio his enormous desire to play in the NBA finals, to live this dream.

"He deserves it, because he has earned every step towards these finals with the effort he put in all these years.

"I think not only us in the Italian basketball community but every Italian sportsman is supporting him right and wishing him to make his dream come true."

The 15 players that make up Italy's first preliminary list, which does include those who play for Serie A semi-finalists Milano, Siena, Roma and Sassari, are Pietro Aradori, Daniele Cavaliero, Riccardo Cervi, Andrea Cinciarini, Marco Cusin, Luigi Datome, Amedeo Della Valle, Andrea De Nicolao, Stefano Gentile, Stefano Mancinelli, Valerio Mazzola, Achille Polonara, Luca Vitali, Michele Vitali and Andrea Zerini.


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