By Cindy Garcia-Bennett
Italy's sharp shooter Marco Belinelli is looking forward to coming up against NBA superstar Tony Parker when the two sides meet on Tuesday in Alicante.
Much of the Azzurri's hopes of going far in the EuroBasket depend on the talented duo of Belinelli and Andrea Bargnani.
Unlike Bargnani, Belinelli, has international experience after playing at last year's FIBA
|Belinelli is looking forward to Italy's match-up with Tony Parker of France.|
Belinelli had seven points in 18 minutes in their opening defeat to Slovenia but is looking to make amends when his side take on France.
In an exclusive interview with Cindy Garcia-Bennett, on behalf of FIBA Europe, the 21-year-old Belinelli discusses his role with the National Team and Italy's ambitions in the EuroBasket.
FIBA Europe: Italy take on France on Tuesday needing a win after their 69-68 defeat to Slovenia. How difficult is this game going to be and are you excited at the prospect of coming up against Tony Parker?
Belinelli: We have not played against France this summer, but having watched them play, they are very athletic and they have many players that compete in the NBA. The most dangerous player is Parker, he has had a great year. The only way to stop Parker is with a good defense and making him waste a lot of energy early in the game.
FIBA Europe: Italy were plagued by injuries this summer and have to do without captain Giacomo Galanda, rising star Danilo Gallinari and strong man Mason Rocca. How has this affected the team?
Belinelli: We have had problems but we cannot think of the players that are not here. We must now focus on the players that are here. We have 12 strong players who will try to do their best.
FIBA Europe: You have experience at international level having competed with Italy in last year's FIBA World Championship. How important was the tournament in Japan to get you to where you are now?
Belinelli: This is my first EuroBasket tournament but having played last summer in Japan, I feel more confident in my game and I am really motivated. I know I have to prove myself in this tournament just as the rest of my team-mates.
FIBA Europe: With respect to last year's tournament, Recalcati has also brought some of the veterans who captured bronze at EuroBasket 2003 and silver at the 2004 Olympics
back into the team. Has this strengthened the squad?
|Italy hope that former #1 NBA draft pick Andrea Bargnani can come up with the goods.|
Belinelli: There is more talent this year with respect to last year. This summer we have a combination of youth and experience so we have to make sure there is synergy between us. I think there is a good atmosphere in the team and there is plenty of talent.
FIBA Europe: What does Recalcati expect from you in this tournament?
Belinelli: Recalcati doesn't want me to take rushed shots but to rather think before I make my move. Obviously, I will have the chance to take some risky shots because that is my strength. Recalcati not only expects a lot from me on offense but also on defense. He
wants me to take on the best players and defend well.
FIBA Europe: Marco, you will be playing next season with the Golden State Warriors having been the 18th overall pick in the NBA draft this summer. Has this put more pressure on you to deliver in this tournament?
Belinelli: I feel pressure but it's normal. We all need to have that pressure because we are a young and strong team and we have to show what we are capable of. I am a young and talented player that has room for improvement but I am aware that I have a lot of work to do. I am the type of player that gives everything in a game. I wanted to play at the EuroBasket because we have a strong team and we will try to do our best. In attack, I can be one of the leaders.
FIBA Europe: Bargnani is playing in his first official competition with Italy after an impressive rookie year with the Toronto Raptors. Can he come up with the goods for Italy?
Belinelli: Bargnani is really motivated to do well considering he was not able to play at the World Championship last summer. He wants to prove to his team-mates, to Italy and to the rest of the world that why he was the number one draft pick of the NBA. We hope that it goes well for him and for us.