|Luigi Datome is the first Italian player since Danilo Gallinari to be voted Player of the Season in the Serie A League|
The recent season-ending injury of Danilo Gallinari dealt a major blow to Italy's EuroBasket 2013 hopes, but Simone Pianigiani's new-look Squadra Azzurra does not depend exclusively on the Denver Nuggets forward.
For the first time in years, and especially after last summer's highly successful EuroBasket Qualification Round campaign, Italian fans feel can confident that there is a crop of players capable of restoring the national team to its former glory.
Luigi (Gigi) Datome is one of those players and on Thursday he became the first Italian player to replicate a feat that Gallinari himself had achieved in the 2007/08 season, while still playing for Olimpia Milano.
The 25-year-old power forward of Acea Virtus Roma was voted as the Player of the Season in the domestic Serie A League, by a panel made up of the general managers, coaches and captains of the 16 teams, as well as journalists that cover the competition.
Datome has been averaging 16.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists for Roma to lead the Italian capital's team to an almost certain third-place finish in the Regular Season, ahead of next weekend's final day.
"It's an award that makes me proud and motivates me enormously to work more every day in order to get better," Datome said.
"I consider it as a reward for the sacrifices I have done until now and the love I have for this sport.
"I'm especially happy because there hadn't been an Italian MVP in this league since the time of Gallo (Gallinari).
"I hope this is an important sign of our progress."
Datome earned Player of the Year honours ahead of two American colleagues, Bryant Dunston of Cimberio Varese and Drake Diener of Banco di Sardegna Sassari.
The Roma player had contributed 11.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game to the national team's campaign in the Qualification Round, in which Italy finished with a perfect 8-0 record to top Group E ahead of Turkey and the Czech Republic.
Another Italian international meanwhile, not yet as consecrated as Datome, received another award on Thursday that came as a confirmation of his steadily rising trajectory.
For the second consecutive year, Achille Polonara of league leaders Varese was named the best player under-22 years of age in the league.
"I'm very happy and satisfied because it is a recognition that comes at the end of a season that has been fantastic so far," said the small forward.
"I would like to thank all club managers, coaches, players and journalists that have voted for me."
All three players were members of the fantastic Italy squad that reached the final of the U20 European Championship in 2011 and took silver after losing to a Spanish side that was led by tournament MVP Nikola Mirotic.