From Cindy Garcia-Bennett, PA International
Rising star Marco Belinelli claims that he can use the experience of winning the Lega A title to help Italy's Under-20 team to the summit of the upcoming U20 European Championships in Russia.
The 19-year-old guard won his first Italian title with Climamio Bologna after establishing himself in coach Jasmin Repesa's side.
"To be Italian champions is a unique feeling," Belinelli told PA International.
"At the start of the campaign, our aim was to finish in the top four, but the secret of this group has been to believe in ourselves and to know that we are capable of anything."
|Marco Belinelli could still join the Italian senior team at EuroBasket 2005|
Belinelli hopes to take this spirit with him when he joins his Italy team-mates to prepare for what is set to be a thrilling tournament next month.
The Azzurri youngsters have been paired in group B with Belarus, the Czech Republic and Lithuania and even though Italy failed to qualify for last year's competition and their last appearance in Europe saw them finish in a disappointing 11th position, there is plenty of optimism about their chances this time.
"We have a great team and our aim is to win the European Championships," said Belinelli.
"I am really looking forward to the tournament, we have a great coach and a solid team, now we just have to do the work on the court."
Belinelli knows he must deliver if he wants to have a chance to make the senior team in the near future.
Both Belinelli and Benetton Treviso's Andrea Bargnani could play in next year's World Championships in Japan, should Italy qualify and national team coach Carlo Recalcati, who will be closely following both players, has not ruled out including one of them in his roster for the EuroBasket in Belgrade.
"For Belinelli and for Bargnani the priority now is the European Under-20 championships," said Recalcati.
"I will go to watch them play and if one of them should become a revelation and could give us more strength, I would not hesitate to call them.
"But my intention is to try and give them a break, considering they would have had a busy schedule with the league and their national team duties."
The former Virtus Bologna guard is in no hurry to take that step forward just yet.
"I'm very happy to be playing with the under-20 team," said Belinelli.
"Of course, it would be a dream to be able to play with the senior team.
"But I am young and I know the right time will come when I am needed."
Belinelli admits he still has a lot of room for improvement, after all, he is his own critic and knows that in order to follow the footsteps of his idol and former team-mate Manu Ginobili, practice makes perfect.
"I need to work on my defence and especially in penetration," he added.
"I've had a good season but I know that I still have a lot to achieve."
But for a player who made his debut in the always challenging Lega A at the age of 16, and two years later experienced the Euroleague final with Climamio, time is on his side.
"I always knew that I was going to be a basketball player," said Belinelli.
"From the moment that I first grabbed a basketball at the age of five, I knew that this sport would be my life.
"I don't want to be hasty, I want to do things the right way."