EUROBASKET WOMEN QUALIFIERS
|Giorgia Sottana will be instrumental in coach Ricchini's quest to change the face of Italy's national team this summer|
By Paul Nilsen
Giorgia Sottana admits Italy will be venturing into the unknown this summer when a new-look line-up hits the floor looking to make up for the bitter disappointment of falling at the final hurdle last time out.
After being beaten for the precious remaining spot in Poland last year by Germany, Italy subsequently decided to go in a different direction, with new head coach Roberto Ricchini recently naming just a handful of players from the previous qualification campaign in his preliminary roster.
Consequently Sottana, who is affectionately known simply as ‘Gio', is bracing herself for all possibilities next month.
"Yeah, it seems like a new chapter is about to begin for us," she accepted.
"The team is completely new, and for sure it's going be hard to find the new ‘face' of this team.
"It's hard for me to say what I think right now and it's hard to think that a lot of great players won't be here anymore. But, I also think it was necessary, and is a project for the future," the point guard asserted.
At least Italy was handed a sizeable boost over the weekend after their top scorer in last year's Qualifying Round and long-serving small forward Raffaella Masciadri confirmed she will play for the Azzurre this summer.
Masciadri failed to land a WNBA contract and will soon join up with the team.
Even with this unexpected bonus, Sottana knows there is a lot of work to do with so many fresh faces in the camp.
Particularly interesting is that the current roster is drawn from every corner of the Italian league with only a few players being drawn from EuroLeague Women clubs.
"For sure a lot of my national team-mates aren't in the biggest teams and it's a bet for us. I've never played with a lot of them and it's hard to say what our value is right now," Sottana said.
"At the beginning of my own national team career, I was just seventeen years old but I was surrounded by experienced players. Now it's different. There will be mostly young players, without international experience.
"It's going to be interesting to see what happens."
IN THE COACH WE TRUST
Tasked with ensuring the revolution is successful is Coach Ricchini, a play-caller who Sottana knows all too well from her time with Cras Basket Taranto and unsurprisingly she is backing him to embrace the challenge head-on.
|Rejuventating a team is all well and good, but any side needs a sharp-shooter like veteran Raffaella Masciadri |
"Coach Ricchini is a great coach," declared Sottana.
"He has won three Italian Championships with Taranto in the last four years, so for sure he has the right experience.
"But I can also say that the national team is a completely different world, and I'm sure he is excited to be part of this new challenge.
"I can't wait to see him in different colours and with these young players. It's going be fun being by his side.
The transition between this year and last has been a very deliberate and planned process - of that there can be little doubt since Ricchini has held a variety of short camps during the club season to get input from his coaching staff on potential new faces.
"For sure (these short sessions) helped the coach with his choices, but I can't say a lot more because I have never taken part in those since I was busy with Euroleague Women."
PLAYING IN TARANTO FOR CLUB AND COUNTRY
The 2011/12 season was certainly bitter-sweet at club level for the 23-year-old who had to stomach failure in EuroLeague Women but then finished an up-and-down campaign on a high, when Taranto swept Beretta Famila Schio in the Italian league finals earlier this month.
"At the beginning of the season, we were a completely new team. We had to find new chemistry and it wasn't easy.
"I truly believe that's the reason why we lost some games in the first half of the EuroLeague Women season.
"However, to win the Championship was a great feeling and especially because we won against such a talented team as Schio, who made it to EuroLeague Women Final Eight."
It's likely the roller-coaster ride may be extended a little longer for Sottana who accepts Italy must make up for what happened on home soil during qualification last year.
"Everyone expected us to qualify and we played in Taranto where the atmosphere was the best we could find, and yet we didn't accomplish our goal."
Despite missing out, Sottana has a philosophical approach to such lows and it's not surprising taking into account the resilience she has had to show in battling back from serious injury in her young career.
"It was bad and, on reflection, I guess that's why they probably decided to try something different with so many new players.
"But, for someone who has went through ACL surgery twice, there aren't such things as the sad moments when it comes to losing - only disappointments."