Datome set to return with Italy, as Pozzecco reveals talks with Belinelli and Hackett

2022-06-26 06:01
Credit: Fotodiena.lt/M.Baranauskas
Credit Fotodiena.lt/M.Baranauskas

Gianmarco Pozzecco's debut on the bench of the Italian national team held a special significance. It took place in his native city of Trieste, in a game that featured a star of the caliber of Luka Doncic, who lit up the Allianz Dome and largely accounted for the sold-out.

Roughly 6,500 spectators watched Slovenia dominate Italy 90-71, just a few days before Pozzecco's squad faces some very important challenges in the 2023 World Cup Qualifiers.

"It was a long and tiring week for me, an earthquake of incredible emotions. When I entered the court, I was visibly moved, the welcome that the Trieste public gave me was unforgettable," the Italian coach said in the postgame presser.

"Today for us it was a tough challenge. I congratulate Slovenia on the great intensity they put on the court, enriching their game with very talented plays. I am proud of these guys. The important thing was not to give up and it didn't happen," the former AX Armani Exchange Milan assistant coach continued.

"I insisted these days on the concept of sharing and -paradoxically- we passed the ball too much by giving up on a few shots," he stressed. 

The Azzurri are being hosted by the Netherlands in Almere on July 4 in a game where Luigi Datome is expected to return to the NT after a three-year absence. The last time the 35-year-old forward captained the squad was in the 2019 World Cup in China. 

In an interview with Corriere dello Sport in September 2021, Datome touched on the Italian national team and the controversy surrounding his absence from the summer tournaments (the FIBA Olympic Qualifiers and the Tokyo Olympics) after many competitions in which he was present. 

"I go to bed with a clear conscience. I'm sorry I wasn't well, but it was a responsible choice. Being with the national team is very nice, but there is also the responsibility to play up to a certain standard and my body did not allow it. I made that choice reluctantly, but I think it was the right one for me and the team. Italy qualified and had a wonderful Olympics," the international forward suggested.

Apart from him, Simone Fontecchio and Italian championship contenders Paul Biligha, Amedeo Tessitori, Giampaolo Ricci, Davide Alviti, Tommaso Baldasso and Alessandro Pajola return to the national team.

On the other hand, Nicolo Melli will not take part in the preparation which will be held in Brescia due to the exacerbation of an injury he suffered during the Serie A finals.

But Pozzecco had also something to say about Marco Belinelli and Daniel Hackett, who have apparently concluded their national team career. The ex-Sassari head coach revealed that he spoke to both Virtus Bologna players, with all sides agreeing on going separate ways. 

"I spoke with Beli [Marco Belinelli]. He had been an extraordinary boy and now he is a wise and equally extraordinary man. We chatted for a long time and our friendship gave us the serenity to make a choice that professionally hurts us both, but which we believe is the right one," Pozzecco said. 

"Basketball takes place at a frenetic pace: a player is forced to give up and a coach is forced to make choices," he added.

"The same goes for Danielino [Daniel Hackett] - there is great mutual respect between us and towards the Federation. I would like to express my appreciation for the historical moments and the emotions that these guys have given us over the years," Pozzecco concluded.

The following players have been called up for the game against the Netherlands:

  • 00 Amedeo Della Valle (1993, 194, Germani Brescia)
  • 0 Marco Spissu (1995, 184, UNICS Kazan)
  • 6 Paul Biligha (1990, 200, AX Armani Exchange Milan)
  • 7 Stefano Tonut (1993, 194, Umana Reyer Venezia)
  • 12 Diego Flaccadori (1996, 193, Dolomiti Energia Trento)
  • 13 Simone Fontecchio (1995, 203, Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz)
  • 16 Amedeo Vittorio Tessitori (1994, 208, Virtus Segafredo Bologna)
  • 17 Giampaolo Ricci (1991, 202, AX Armani Exchange Milan)
  • 33 Achille Polonara (1991, 205, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul)
  • 40 Luca Severini (1996, 204, Bertram Derthona Basket Tortona)
  • 44 Davide Alviti (1996, 200, AX Armani Exchange Milan)
  • 52 Tommaso Baldasso (1998, 192, AX Armani Exchange Milan)
  • 53 Tomas Woldetensae (1998, 196, Openjobmetis Varese)
  • 54 Alessandro Pajola (1999, 194, Virtus Segafredo Bologna)
  • 70 Luigi Datome (1987, 203, AX Armani Exchange Milan)
  • 77 John Petrucelli (1992, 193, Germani Brescia )

Following their game in the Netherlands, Italy will play three friendlies against France (Bologna, August 12 and Montpellier, August 16), Serbia (Hamburg, August 19), and Germany or the Czech Republic (Hamburg, August 20).

On August 24 and 27, they will give another two home games for the 2023 World Cup 2023 Qualifiers against opponents yet to be defined.

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