Nico Mannion cherishes Italian roots, looks forward to playing for the national team

2020-09-15T19:03:33+00:00 2020-09-15T19:04:13+00:00.

Stefan Djordjevic

15/Sep/20 19:03

Nico Mannion will try his chances in the 2020 NBA Draft and his experience with the Italian national team may play to his advantages

By Stefan Djordjevic/

The 19-year-old points guard prospect Nico Mannion has been preparing for the 2020 NBA Draft for which he has been projected as the late first-round or early second-round pick.

He went through high school and college in the US, in Arizona, as many other prospects do but one of his advantages will be that he has also experienced playing against pros with the Italian national team.

He stepped on the court for Italy in the qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, as the fourth youngest in team history at 17, logging nine points for the debut.

Needless to say, he learned a lot from the experience. Especially off the court.

“It was different. I went from playing high school ball to playing with pros. I think the best thing I learned was off-the-floor stuff. On the court, I was able to adjust and learn. It took me a couple of practices but once I was in the rhythm, I was fine. But off the floor, I learned a lot. Those guys over there are the best player in Italy and at 17 years old, I was seeing ow they take care of their body, how they practice, what they eat, how many hours of sleep they get, stuff like that. I was lucky to be able to see that,” he told Fran Fraschilla on the “World Of Basketball” podcast.

And he will gladly take on the mantle against if asked to: “Of course. If it fits [my schedule], if I’m called on, I’d love to be there.”

One of the things he cherishes the most is making his mother, who is Italian, proud: “It was awesome. It brought me a lot of joy, I think it most of all it brought my mom a lot of joy. I remember listening to the national anthem, looking up and seeing my mom just crying. That’s something I won’t forget. It’s a feeling I’ll remember forever. I think making my mom proud like that is something that brings me the most joy in the world.”

Although he moved to the US early on in his childhood, his Italian roots are going strong and that goes for everyday life at home as well.

“I still feel Italian. Just ’cause the culture here at my house. We have family dinner every night, my mom cooks an Italian meal every night. My cousin from Italy moved in with us four years ago so we speak Italian quite a bit, it’s mixed. My mom will say something in Italian, someone will respond in English, and she’ll respond in English and then we’ll go back to Italian. It’s just all over the place. So, I still feel pretty Italian plus I’ve been lucky enough to go back every year. I’m gonna say half and half.”