|Matteo Imbro is becoming a true leader for Italy, on and off the court.|
By David Hein
When watching Italy play at the 2012 Albert Schweitzer Tournament (AST), it is absolutely clear who the leader on the floor is. And according to Italian coach Andrea Capobianco, point guard Matteo Imbro is becoming more of a man.
"He's an excellent player. He has not only improved as a player, technically and his skills but also like a man. He's learned to become a man. And that is very important," said Capobianco of the 18-year-old native of Agrigento.
"But he is also putting that on the floor. He's very serious and he knows that he has to work hard every day to improve."
This is Imbro's second summer with the U18 national team after helping Italy to a fourth place finish at the 2011 U18 European Championship in Wroclaw. As a 17-year-old, Imbro was Italy's third leading scorer with 11.4 points while grabbing 3.9 rebounds and dishing out 3.4 assists and swiping 1.1 steals.
At the 2010 U16 European Championship, Imbro averaged 8.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists.
Imbro admits that he has improved his character on and off the court.
"My character is getting much better. It's a lot better than at the U18 European Championship last summer. The coach is making me play better and develop the game in a different way and give it more respect while developing a stronger game and being more focused and staying focused," said Imbro, who was Italy's fourth leading scorer at the AST with 11.8 points to go along with 5.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and a tournament-best 6.7 assists.
"I need to be more responsible. I need to lead the team because we have some young guys and I have to be a leader on the team. We have to make sure the 1995-born players know that even if you are younger it doesn't matter if you play strong," added Imbro.
Italy finished fifth at the AST despite top scorer and rebounder Amedeo Tessitori leaving the tournament after three games to return to Italy for important league games.
"In this tournament we played more together and more as a team. We have to always be focused on the game because the other team punishes you if you make a mistake," said Imbro.
"We learned that we really need to play defense to win a competition like this. We will continue to work on our mistakes and try to limit the mistakes. We worked on remaining attentive and keeping our concentration when we play day after day against good teams," said Capobianco, who believes maybe eight of the players from the AST team will play at the U18 European Championship this summer.
"They are pretty good teams. We have to pay attention to Lithuania and Greece because they are two very good teams," said Imbro.
And about the group, Capobianco added: "It's a tough group. Lithuania and Greece both have a lot of very strong and experienced players. We know that but we want to improve. We have to play 40 minutes in every game. And that's the most important thing."
Important to Italy's chances is having Imbro play like a leader and a real man.