One season is all it takes: Naz Mitrou-Long's rise to the top of European basketball

Orazio Cauchi
Staff Writer
2022-06-14 13:00
Credit: Pallacanestro Brescia
Credit Pallacanestro Brescia

Europe was long overdue, that's for sure. When Naz Mitrou-Long signed with Italian club Germani Brescia almost a year ago, it felt like a move that should have happened way before.

Rumors about the potential European landing for Mitrou-Long have been going on for more than a year. With his Greek roots, there was a feeling that the Iowa State alumni could have ended up in a Greek club. Olympiacos had been on his case for a while, as Mitrou-Long confirmed in an interview he gave to our Giorgos Kyriakidis back in February

"There were a lot of healthy conversations, and we were close to making some steps in those directions," Mitrou-Long explained. "I think there was common ground and understanding that they wanted to see more out of me, and I had more to prove. That was respectable, regardless of what I believed."

3-pointers this season

35%
9,0
Points made: 9,0
Accuracy: 35,0%
Place in standings: 8
Record max: 14
Record min: 3
Most made 3FGs: Devon Hall

After playing only 20 NBA games in three seasons and having a lot of experience in the G League, last summer Mitrou-Long and his entourage decided that it was the right time to test the overseas market.

But instead of Greece, Mitrou-Long chose Italy. The point guard signed for Germani Brescia after the GM of the team, Marco De Benedetto, had kept him on his radars for a while.

De Benedetto felt that Mitrou-Long could have been the perfect partner in the backcourt for Italian shooting guard Amedeo Della Valle, who had just returned to Italy after a season full of ups and downs between Gran Canaria and Buducnost. 

The idea to pair the two players was incredibly effective because Brescia started to fly in December, and from that point on, they put together an amazing streak.

The team coached by Alessandro Magro won 18 out of 19 games played in that part of the regular season, losing only once on the road against Bertram Derthona and finishing the regular season right behind the two biggest teams of the league: Virtus Bologna and AX Armani Exchange Milan. 

Mitrou-Long, of course, was a huge part of this success. The Canadian point guard quickly established himself as one of the best players in the Italian league, providing outstanding performances week after week.

The former Indiana Pacers player averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game while shooting almost 37% from 3-point. His combination of scoring abilities, size, basketball IQ, and athleticism attracted interest from all over Europe, with Brescia often visited by EuroLeague and NBA scouts. 

Brescia's run in the playoffs was cut short by a couple of key injuries suffered by Amedeo Della Valle and Kenny Gabriel. The team coached by Alessandro Magro got eliminated in the first-round series by Sassari.

Despite the loss, Mitrou-Long once again proved his value. The Canadian point guard finished the series averaging 24.5 points and 7.2 assists per game, taking all the offensive responsibilities on his shoulders.

He even registered his season-high 38 points in Game 4 against Sassari. Although it wasn't enough to win the game, it proved how dominant Mitrou-Long could be when he's given the keys to a team's offense. 

The impressive season conducted by Brescia was rewarded by multiple individual trophies. LegaBasket selected Amedeo Della Valle as the MVP of the season, Alessandro Magro as the best coach of the year, Marco De Benedetto as the best executive, and Naz Mitrou-Long as the rookie of the year. 

Right after the end of the season, Mitrou-Long penned a letter to thank Brescia for the amazing experience. 

"If somebody would ask me how my first season in Europe went, I'd say that I fell in love with this small city. From the people and the food to the amazing support that I received from the team. I loved my first [season in Europe] here," Mitrou-Long wrote in his letter. 

"It took some time, but then we did some amazing things together. 14 wins in a row (club record), we finished the regular season in the third place with 21 wins over the season (another club record). We started the season with a 3-6 record, we finished with a 21-9 record, something to be proud of," Mitrou-Long continued in his letter. 

The former NBA player stated his love for Brescia multiple times over the season and how he would have liked to remain in the city for at least another season. But with his level of performance and the amount of interest generated, for Brescia, it was always a long shot to be able to keep him beyond this season. 

Recently the player decided to hire Misko Raznatovic as his agent for the European market, pairing him with his American agent Mike Silverman.

Multiple EuroLeague sides have shown strong interest in signing Mitrou-Long over the past few months, sources have told BasketNews. Olympiacos, Fenerbahce, Armani Exchange Milan, Virtus Bologna, and Baskonia have all tried to make a move for the player, sources told BasketNews. 

But as things stand, it looks like the future of Mitrou-Long will continue to be in Italy, with the player expected to strike a deal with powerhouse Armani Exchange Milan.

As it was reported by both La Gazzetta dello Sport and Il Corriere dello Sport, the team coached by Ettore Messina looks really close to signing Mitrou-Long to a two-year deal, keeping him in the country after the impressive season he had in Brescia.

With the likely departures of Sergio Rodriguez and Malcolm Delaney, Milan had to make multiple moves in the backcourt. The Italian powerhouse didn't hold back, securing the deals with Kevin Pangos, Billy Baron, and Stefano Tonut. 

One season was all it took for Mitrou-Long to take Europe by storm and become one of the most coveted players on the market. From an intriguing rookie in a mid-level team to one of the future rising stars of the EuroLeague in a span of a year. 

What the former Iowa State has accomplished in his first season of European basketball is absolutely impressive. Now, if that Greek passport arrives in time, we might even be able to watch him compete in EuroBasket next to Giannis Antetokounmpo, trying to put Greece on the top of the European Olympus. 

If you're already looking for a potential rising star candidate for the next EuroLeague, Naz Mitrou-Long is a name to keep an eye on. Being a rookie didn't stop him from being one of the best players in the Italian league, and being a rookie at the EuroLeague level is not going to scare him either. 

This season's motto for Germani Brescia was 'Dream Big'. It looks like Naz Mitrou-Long took that literally. 



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