Gabriele Procida and Matteo Spagnolo are learning together in Berlin

2023-10-18T18:25:54+00:00 2023-10-18T18:30:33+00:00.

Cesare Milanti

18/Oct/23 18:25

The young and promising Italian duo, already seen with the Italian national team at the 2023 FIBA World Cup, is now with ALBA Berlin

By Cesare Milanti /

MANILA, Philippines – Yes, you read it right: Manila. This place will always belong in Matteo Spagnolo and Gabriele Procida’s memories, marking their first-ever FIBA World Cup participation with the Italian national team.

And despite the most anticipated International tournament of the whole of 2023 being over for more than a month now, there’s where Eurohoops managed to catch up with both of them, talking about their recent experience under Gianmarco Pozzecco’s Italy, and a new adventure coming up.

Having already debuted in the EuroLeague together for ALBA Berlin, in a few hours they will both play for the first time as opponents of an Italian team, stepping on PalaDozza’s court against Virtus Bologna, led by the Best Coach of the 2023 World Cup Luca Banchi.

Living a dream with their Italian family

Having respectively played 8.9 minutes and 8.0 minutes per game at the recent 2023 FIBA World Cup with Italy, both Gabriele Procida and Matteo Spagnolo knew they were about to begin a familiar chapter with that group of players. “They made us enter the group as if we were home. As you can see on the court, we’re a family, we’re always together. This is the strength of our group”, the former said to Eurohoops about the Italian national team.

Matteo Spagnolo followed, sharing his excitment. “It’s always a pleasure wearing this jersey because you find friends and help create this environment which brings us the will of working hard, playing together”, he first said. “We’ve been around the Italian national team for quite some time now, we work hard every year, and we knew there was going to be the opportunity to find a spot in the roster”, the former Real Madrid player followed.

Asked if playing this World Cup was part of the plan, Gabriele Procida didn’t have any doubts. “This was something I already planned before, I would have loved to be a part of it. The opportunity came and living this kind of experience with Matteo [Spagnolo] is truly unbelievable”, the 21-year-old small forward, who had 3.2 points per game in the competition, commented.

Talking about his 20-year-old friend, the former Fortitudo Bologna dunker said he has been following him. “We’ve been talking a lot during the season, I’ve watched many of his games both in the LBA and in the EuroCup”, he first stated. “From him I’ll take his ability to stay under control, to finish at the rim, understanding every situation on the court and reading the game, always coming to the right solution”, Gabriele Procida then said about what to take from Matteo Spagnolo, who replied.

“I’d go for his athleticism and for his shooting ability, which is something you rarely see out there technical-wise”, he said. “If it goes in, it’s better…”, Gabriele Procida instantly joked. That’s the thing: you can tell their special relationship by these kinds of moments when they make fun of each other. “We always have a lot of fun together. It brings an extra factor to our games”, Matteo Spagnolo added.

Most importantly, they know which kind of advice to give to the other when things don’t follow the original plan. “We always say to each other to keep it calm, even when you don’t play a lot. Our moment will come, when we go out there on the court we start from little things, especially on defense”, Procida said. “We are both conscious about our abilities and what we can bring to our teams. We believe in ourselves so much… this helps us in becoming better players, we do that reciprocally”, Spagnolo followed.

A new chapter together in Berlin

This new adventure with ALBA Berlin isn’t the first one together for the young Italian duo, who also participated in some NBA joint workouts before the 2022 NBA Draft, where Gabriele Procida and Matteo Spagnolo were respectfully drafted with the 36th pick by the Detroit Pistons and with the 50th pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Living that night, Gabriele Procida said the aftermath with his friend. “We texted each other, it was amazing. We lived that experience together, living for one month in Los Angeles. It was dope to share that experience with him, for real”, he said about his new teammate in Berlin.

Talking about how much he helped in Matteo Spagnolo’s decision, the 20-year-old playmaker said Gabriele Procida contributed “in everything”, smiling afterward. “Obviously having a person who you know so well, who spoke so highly about you to the club, it confirmed the fact I could go there. The opportunity came up, and I took it”, he said.

Before entering the season, Gabriele Procida gave wise advice to Matteo Spagnolo. “Patience will be needed, but he has all the characteristics to do well. There will be ups and downs, clearly. I saw it by myself last year. But Matteo [Spagnolo] has everything to do super well, especially in a team like ALBA. In my eyes, he’s 99.0% perfect for the team’s needs because it’s what they want. They need young talents to develop and build a project around them. They don’t rush in wanting it to be perfect from day one, they give you the time to make mistakes on the court and improve”, he said.

Talking about his first season in the EuroLeague, where he had 5.7 points and 1.8 rebounds over 27 appearances, he had nothing but great words. “In the beginning, they made me realize how big their work ethic was. I never found anything like that in my previous teams. I realized I hadn’t worked enough previously. Thanks to the club, I’ve made a lot of improvements. In every day off, I was in the gym to make myself better. I think that’s the key, the daily work each and every day, and patience in obtaining your results without rushing”, Gabriele Procida admitted.

Before them, there was another Italian suiting up for ALBA Berlin, exploding for 10.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in his first EuroLeague season outside of his home country, before making the jump to Baskonia and the Utah Jazz.

“We all know how big his jump was making it to the NBA, and this surely helped me in making this decision”, Matteo Spagnolo said about Simone Fontecchio’s past influencing his move to Germany. “Who goes to ALBA goes to the NBA…”, Gabriele Procida then said. “Watching his progression, where he is now… you have to be in the right place at the right time. Simone [Fontecchio] was here, Gabriele [Procida] is here”, the point guard added.

Touching on his first European season, last year with Dolomiti Energia Trentino in the EuroCup – averaging 11.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game -, Matteo Spagnolo thinks it helped him progress. “EuroCup is a great level of basketball, and facing teams outside of the Italian championship always helps. The opportunity to play more than once per week also helped, because the EuroLeague is like that and you have to adjust yourself to that rhythm”, he said.

“I’m taking this new challenge just like my previous ones: with patience, continuing to work hard. Obviously, I’m very happy to be in Berlin, where I’ll have the opportunity to grow and improve, proving my level in the EuroLeague. It’s the right thing to do for me”, Matteo Spagnolo added.

Gabriele Procida then took the mic in the debate regarding playing time not being conceded to young players in Italy. “You need a team which can build a project around you, which can give you the opportunity to become better, to make mistakes. You need the kind of team that will make you special. In Italy it doesn’t really work like that”, he stated.

Finally, Matteo Spagnolo shared great words about his teammate. “I love playing with Gabri [Procida], we have done that since we were young. Even playing in the same NBA workouts helped, because we were better together. We have chemistry even outside of the court. We have fun, and we spur each other in always making that next step”, he said. “Our goal is to play well and have fun. What will come next as a result, we’ll take it”, the small forward added.

They proved it last week, contributing to ALBA Berlin’s late offensive push to try a comeback against Baskonia, scoring 12 points each. The Italian show continues in the German capital: Gabriele Procida and Matteo Spagnolo will keep improving. Together.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIP Archive – Marco Brondi

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