By Cesare Milanti / email@example.com
MANILA, Philippines – The 2023 FIBA World Cup is just one day from its beginning, and Italy will start things up in Manila by facing Angola in the outstanding Philippine Arena. On the eve of the Italian team’s debut, the three main leaders of this expedition Simone Fontecchio, Nicolò Melli, and Gigi Datome with head coach Gianmarco Pozzecco talked in a meeting with Italian media.
“I’m not superstitious, but I would prefer being 6-1. It’s true that winning helps to win. Those were seven good friendly games, but now the World Cup starts. The path to it was important, but tomorrow is a whole different story”, Nicolò Melli said at the beginning of the meeting with the Italian media.
The Olimpia Milano‘s captain was the protagonist of “Afternoon”, a podcast project created alongside Gigi Datome which increased even more the love and excitement toward the Italian national team this summer. “We thought of doing it only to make Nicolò funny enough”, Datome joked. “We tried to make people discover the hidden sides of our teammates”, he added. “What we did was talking unfiltered, but doing it wasn’t necessary to realize how much love we receive from fans: there’s always great support from everybody”, Nicolò Melli also said.
Both Nicolò Melli and Gigi Datome, the most experienced player on the Italian roster, were asked about what means for the team’s chemistry to be always focused on defense. “Coach Pozzecco pushes us to help each other in every situation, and from that the faith on offense among us grows. It’s a good feeling knowing to always have the support of your teammates on defense. Approaching the World Cup, we must help each other”, the former Fenerbahce‘s number 70 said.
“Everybody sacrifices for each other, without selfishness. We are utterly undersized, helping is necessary”, Nicolò Melli added. “Whenever I put on the Italian national team’s jersey, we have never been able to overcome the Quarter-Finals. This is a new group, with its soul that communicates what we truly believe in. Seeing players giving that extra transmits a team spirit from the first to the last one on the roster”, Melli added.
After coming out victorious in seven friendly games out of seven, FIBA put Italy higher than earlier in its Power Ranking, up to the 7th position. “The FIBA Power Ranking had zero impact on the team so far”, Gigi Datome said. Simone Fontecchio was also considered among the best players to keep an eye on, being put in 12th position out of all 2023 FIBA World Cup participants. “I’m glad to be on that list, but I’m happy to see the team recognizes my responsibility and role”, the Utah Jazz player stated.
“I hadn’t played in four months”, Fontecchio continued, “and it wasn’t easy to reactivate my confidence and physical condition. We will be nervous, I’m not gonna lie, I speak on behalf of everybody but it’s understandable when you talk about a debut. Our coaching staff draws the line: When you are free, shoot. That’s what they say. This gives you the opportunity to play free, without any overthought. We have our playstyle, as soon as we have an advantage, we exploit it. I’ve never seen anybody with a depressed face: We have full confidence in ourselves, and the environment is affected positively by that”, Italy’s number 13 said.
PHOTO CREDIT: 2023 FIBA World Cup