|20 July 2005|
Italian star Luigi Datome is ready to guide his national team to glory in the Under-18 European
Championships in Belgrade.
The Montepaschi Siena forward, who inspired the Azzurrini to an 82-70 quarter-final win over Latvia on Tuesday with 24 points, seven rebounds and four steals, is confident Italy can go all the way.
"We have a good chance," said Datome. "I don't want to exaggerate but so far we have only lost against Israel.
"With respect to our rivals, Turkey have a very good side and Serbia & Montenegro have their crowd behind them so it will be difficult to beat them.
"I haven't watched Russia play yet but I know they are very strong."
Italy have to face France and Turkey before they can contemplate a semi-final clash but Datome is ready for the challenge as the confirmed leader of Antonio Bocchino's outfit and feels the team is getting stronger.
"I like the team we have and I feel as though our game is improving," added the 17-year-old.
"We are getting more confidence as the competition continues."
The 2.02m tall player has an added incentive to impress in Belgrade as he is aiming to earn a new contract at Siena with his current deal expiring this summer.
"I would be happy to remain at Siena," he said. "In the past two years I've really enjoyed it.
"I haven't spoken to (coach Carlo) Recalcati yet. I know they are currently constructing the team and if there is space for me, then I will remain."
For the time being, Datome is concentrating on learning from others and improving his game.
"My hero is Tony Parker," he revealed. "I've had the pleasure of watching him play live and he is spectacular.
"I would like to be like him but I know there is still a very long way to go."