|Italy's Stefano Mancinelli following his teammates from the stands|
By Dave Hein
Stefano Mancinelli would not let his team down. The Italian captain was forced out of EuroBasket 2013 with a right leg injury just a week before the tournament started. But the 30-year-old veteran decided to stay in Slovenia to help support the young Italia side.
"A EuroBasket is not something that happens every day. So it's important to stay. I have played at three EuroBaskets (2005, 2007, 2011) and I'm proud to be part of this one too," said Mancinelli, who watches the Group D games from the stands in Koper.
"The emotion is just like my first one. I was disappointed about the injury, but I would have been more disappointed if I couldn't stay."
Mancinelli could not think of leaving his teammates.
"I just wanted to stay close to the team. I worked with the team the whole preparations. I'm the captain and won't go away," said Mancinelli, who was replaced by Luigi Datome as Italian captain.
Italian coach Simone Pianigiani also wouldn't let Mancinelli go away.
"Coach told me don't think about going," said Mancinelli.
"It is a very good thing that the captain stayed with us. I'm proud of him. We decided immediately after the examination said he could not play. We decided together," said Pianigiani.
The coach said Mancinelli's experience is invaluable to an Italian team that has eight players making their EuroBasket debut.
"It's important for him to be here and give his experience to the younger players," said Pianigiani.
When asked what role Mancinelli was given, the coach said: "Just to stay. They had habits with him. And we didn't want to change those habits. He was the captain. Small things, like deciding the color of our shirt. And his face is calm."
Italian shooting guard Pietro Aradori said Mancinelli staying with the team speaks of the bond within the Azzurri.
"The very good thing about this team is that we are a very good group - also outside the court.
This is an example. Stefano is the captain, he was there when we went 8-0 last summer in qualifying. He wants to be with us and that's a good thing," said Aradori.
Mancinelli is hoping his support from the stands can help Italia make a long run - with their capitano still on board.