By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming from an injury plagued season of all sorts of ups and downs, a rather tumultuous summer with one foot at the exit door of Olimpia Armani Milano and the other still in his team’s locker rooms, Italian swingman Alessandro Gentile is highly determined on taking back what so many afflictions stole from his game last year. For his own and his ambitious squad’s benefit.
“It’s very good that we started this season very well for now,” he told Eurohoops. Milano counts a 6-2 record in Euroleague and Italian league so far. Not a bad season entrance, but still a long way to go according to the 23-year-old player. “We still have a lot of work to do and many things to improve. We have 15 players, so it’s not an easy process. Everybody has to be ready and we have to get the maximum from everyone when they step on the floor.”
Despite being tortured by numerous setbacks that didn’t allow him to at least tap into a part of his gargantuan potential, Gentile finished the previous season truly in style for him and his team. He was one of the protagonists for Milano in the Italian league finals, averaging 16.2 points per game in the four matches the “Red Shoes” won vs Reggio Emilia, in order to lift the trophy.
“There were many injuries indeed. Still, I think I provided my contribution on winning the championship title and the Italian Cup, as well as in having a great entrance in Euroleague. Of course, we didn’t continue well in Europe. The important thing is that ultimately the team had a successful season since we won the domestic trophies in Italy.”
After the last game of the 2016 Finals series, his comments were of bittersweet nature. On one hand, being crowned champion was naturally a cause for celebration. But on the other, during such emotion packed moments, Gentile couldn’t help but reflect on the torments that troubled him over the season saying: “Only me and my family knows how much I suffered throughout the year.”
Try to picture it for an instant: Being 22 years old (his age in early 2015-2016 season) and carrying an offensive talent that can torch anything on its path, assuming a leadership position as captain (on and off the floor) in your team while lifting the weight of perhaps the most proud basketball franchise jersey in your country.
At the same time, dealing with physical injuries which leave some difficult to heal psychological scars on your self-confidence that prohibit you from performing per your desires and true capabilities.
The latter are boiling in Gentile’s blood. Thus, it didn’t come as a surprise that after providing his fine basketball penmanship to steer Milano closer to the promised land of two championship titles (2014, 2016) after a 12-year drought, he turned his gaze to the quest of what is the holy grail for every young (and not only) basketball player: Getting into the NBA.
And why not? In fact, the timing couldn’t be better. Mike D’Antoni had assumed the head coach position in the Houston Rockets, which own Gentile’s rights, and this could arguably provide the ideal circumstances for the player’s possible arrival in the team.
Let’s not forget that if anyone absolutely understands the heights that Gentile might reach, that’s D’Antoni himself. A legendary figure for Milano with a retired jersey that rests high in the sky of “Mediolanum Forum”, D’Antoni has marked Gentile’s progress throughout the years being fully aware of his skills.
As Gentile said to Eurohoops, not only he had heard D’Antoni tell him that he wants him as a player but he also came really close to actually becoming a Rocket.
“I talked with coach D’Antoni. He said that he wants to coach me. To be honest…. it looked like that I’d go to Houston this summer. Everything pointed towards that. But then, maybe the Rockets changed their mind. I don’t know what, why and how. You have to ask them for this.”
Since the flirt with the Rockets was not consummated, Gentile stayed in Milano. But just before the season began, he discovered that his status within the team was altered to a serious degree.
Club president Livio Proli decided to unseat him from his place as captain, stating that “Gentile needs to decide if he is a boy or a man”. Perhaps the main reasons behind Proli’s decision was the fact that right after the last game of the Lega A finals, Gentile spoke about the possibility of leaving the team.
“I said that it might be that I want to try the experience of the NBA. I think that’s not a crime you know? Everybody wants to do to play in the NBA. OK, it looked like a crime. I paid for this since I am not a captain anymore.”
Does his deposition provide an extra motivation to transcend his game to a totally different level? “It’s not an extra motivation. I don’t care about happens outside the court. When I’m on court I try to win games”
While locked on target for everything that Milano requires him to do, the ambition of making to the NBA is still burning hot within his heart. It’s only natural after all and denying it would simply mean lying to himself.
“Of course. It’s a dream for everybody. As I said I don’t think it’s not a crime to want to play in the best league in the world. Maybe for somebody it is a crime. But for me, I want do play in the best league in the world, be the best player that I can and have the best career that I can have.”
The collaboration with the Houston Rockets wasn’t launched over the summer, but it might be fulfilled in the future. Until then, Alessandro Gentile will continue to chase his dream while keeping head concentrated on providing the maximum to Olimpia Armani Milano.
“If the NBA won’t happen with Houston, I hope it’s going to be somewhere else. It’s my dream to play in there. I think I’ve shown that I can play in the highest level of basketball in Europe so I want to try to make the next step. But first I want to have a successful season here in Milano. Then we’ll see what happens.”