|11 July 2014|
|Italy head coach Andrea Capobianco|
By David Hein
Italian national team coach Andrea Capobianco does not like to talk about individual players, but it's clear that Federico Mussini will be an integral part of Italy's chances at the U18 European Championship.
But just as important will be the Italians' team chemistry.
It's the Italian's undying commitment to the team which has been key to a number of strong results in recent years - including Italy's 2013 U20 European Championship title, Italy reaching the quarter-finals of EuroBasket 2013 and the country's win at the 2014 Albert Schweitzer Tournament (AST).
"Every player has to use his talent for the good of the team, that's what we did in Mannheim (AST) and that's what we rely on," said Capobianco.
"Even if team chemistry will change because we are changing the player personnel, every player has to make an effort in order to find a new team balance and increase the level of cohesion."
Capobianco is dealing with injury concerns ahead of the tournament in Konya from July 24-August 3. One player for example who will not play in Turkey is 17-year-old Andrea LaTorre, who was a strong role player on the AST winning team.
The playmaker Mussini meanwhile was on the AST All-Tournament Team in April, averaging a fourth-best 20.3 points as well as 3.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals. And the Reggio Emilia guard will be a huge part of Italy's game plan in Turkey.
"Obviously, Mussini is an important player for our team and his importance has to be recognised not only for his scoring ability or for what he's doing on the court but for his human role inside the group," said Capobianco about the lanky, 1.90m guard, who can take over the game in a number of ways.
Still, Capobianco immediately turned the talk to the whole team, saying: "All the individuals have to realise they are important as well and be aware of their role in the team."
Capobianco warned his team about Group A in Konya, where Italy will take on Latvia, Belgium and Poland.
"Our group is very dangerous. Latvia is year by year used to having very interesting players and play smart basketball. Furthermore, it is a group of players used to spending a lot of time together during the season and for this reason have a very reliable execution," Capobianco said of the Baltic team.
The coach said he was impressed with the technical and physical skills of Poland at the recent Potenza Tournament; and about Belgium, he added: "Belgium is a newcomer that will add to technical qualities a big enthusiasm and will be very tough to deal with."
Capobianco toned down his team's expectations.
"The team's goal is a game-by-game mentality and only look up at the scoreboard and check out the result after the 40th minute. We are very aware that a European Championship is full of difficulties but we want to be focused about the ‘how' to achieve a result. We have to concern ourselves with the journey we have to do to reach a goal."
Capobianco did talk about finishing in the top five spots, which would earn the country a spot in the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship - a tournament the Italians haven't competed at since 1995.
"For sure, to get within first five positions and qualify for the U19 World Championship at the moment is nothing more than a dream. But we want to work as hard as we can to make this dream come true despite all the issues with several players we have had so far. We know it's tough but we want to have dreams," said Capobianco.