Gabriele Procida: How unique ALBA experience helps to get closer to American dream

Orazio Cauchi
Staff Writer
2022-11-06 08:30

The 20-year-old Italian rookie had summer to remember: he was selected in the NBA Draft, signed a multi-year contract with ALBA Berlin, and was also a part of the roster of the Italian NT in preparation for EuroBasket.

Credit: IMAGO/camera4+
Credit IMAGO/camera4+

All I remember when I was 20 is the fact that I started to have my first experiences in the online journalism world. I wanted to write about sports, so I began to work on a couple of websites, mostly about Italian and English football.

So basically all my time was split between college and writing articles. Later on, since basketball was always on my mind, I also started to check for possible collaborations with basketball websites and that's how everything started for me.

Meanwhile, 20-year-old Gabriele Procida has already achieved much more than probably many people would ever achieve in the rest of my life.

Gabriele Procida

Gabriele  Procida
Gabriele  Procida
MIN: 18.35
PTS: 9 (45.83%)
REB: 2.33
As: 1.17
ST: 0.5
BL: 0
TO: 0.5
GM: 6

This summer, he was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Draft with the 36th pick, he was part of the training camp of the Italian national team before EuroBasket, and last, but not least, he signed a multi-year contract with the EuroLeague side ALBA Berlin, marking his first experience outside of Italian basketball.

His summer was quite an eventful one. In the past two seasons, Procida experienced two relegations in a row in Italy, first with Cantù and then with Fortitudo Bologna.

At the end of the past season with Fortitudo Bologna, one of the brightest talents in the country had to prepare for the NBA Draft while also looking for a new team to continue his career in Europe.

His impact on EuroLeague basketball has been an impressive one. In his first game against Partizan Belgrade, Procida didn't look intimidated or doubtful, quite the opposite.

He shot from the distance with confidence and made a couple of highlight plays that immediately captured the attention of many people, not only in the arena but also in the rest of the basketball environment.

So far, the Italian wing is averaging 9.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game in EuroLeague, while also shooting 39.3% from three-point. To talk about his EuroLeague rookie campaign, the process that led him to the NBA Draft, and many other things, I had the chance to speak with Gabriele Procida and know him a little bit better. 

"So far, everything has been great, the teammates were great in helping me, most of them have been here already for two or three years. Luke Sikma, the captain of the team, has been here for six years. All of them have been extremely helpful," Procida told BasketNews about his first few months in Berlin. 

"There are some new rules on the court that I need to learn but I'm trying to adapt as fast as I can, but the whole experience has been great so far," he added.

As mentioned before, Procida played last season with Italian side Fortitudo Bologna. He had originally signed a multi-year deal with the team but the season was problematic from the beginning.

Coach Jasmin Repesa left the team after the first game of the regular season and Fortitudo decided to hire Antimo Martino to replace him.

The change, though, didn't work effectively and at the end of the season, as after many struggles, the team got relegated. Teams in the second division are not considered professional teams here in Italy, so when Fortitudo Bologna got relegated, Procida's contract was voided and he was free to look for another solution on the market.

But the player had also to focus on the NBA Draft, so every discussion about his future in Europe was postponed until after the draft. 

"Before the draft, someone mentioned ALBA Berlin as a possibility but there was nothing concrete at that time," Procida explained to BasketNews.

"I chose ALBA Berlin because it's an important project, they wanted to give me the opportunity to play minutes in EuroLeague and in a good domestic league like the German one. But most importantly, I chose them because of their work ethic. Every morning I have the opportunity to work with a player development coach and as a club, they have a great reputation in this department."

After signing with ALBA, Procida had the opportunity to take some advice from his fellow national team member Simone Fontecchio, who also played for one season in Berlin, where his career skyrocketed.

The two had the chance to talk during the Italian national team training camp in Pinzolo before the beginning of EuroBasket and Fontecchio shared some of his knowledge about ALBA's environment. 

"We talked a little bit with Simone after I signed the deal with ALBA. He gave some advice and he told me that he had a really positive experience in Berlin," Procida told BasketNews. "Everything was already done so I didn't need further convincing but it was good to hear positive stuff from Simone". 

Before signing a multi-year deal with ALBA, though, Procida spent most of the summer in the USA to prepare for the NBA Draft. During his last season in Italy, many NBA scouts watched him and the general expectation was that he could have been selected in the second round. 

"For me, it was a huge experience," Procida explained to BasketNews. "What I liked the most was the positive atmosphere around the young players. All those positive vibes give you more confidence as a young player. I had the opportunity to compare myself with many other young players who had different backgrounds from mine."

"I traveled all around the country, I did 15 workouts, it was great. Being in touch with the NBA environment was like a dream come true, I spoke with GMs and coaches, and I had the chance to visit the facilities of the teams, something that usually I only saw in video games, it was great," the 20-year-old continued.

The draft night was a sleepless one for Procida. The player wasn't in the USA and followed the whole process from Italy in a different time zone. To find out about his future, he had to stay up all night. 

"I didn't sleep at all," Procida said. "The draft started when here in Italy it was around 2 am in the morning and my pick wasn't made until around 6 am. The first round of the draft was so long, it looked like it was never going to end. The Pistons called me right after the selection and gave me a warm welcome."

"The relationship with Detroit is really good, I hear from them basically every day, before every game they write to me and wish me good luck. They also came to Berlin to visit me and to ask me if everything was going well. It's a good feeling to see that they're always present."

The Italian wing made a big step, moving from a relegated team in Italy to the German reigning champions and EuroLeague side ALBA Berlin. More playing time, more games, and more responsibilities. Something that takes time to absorb and get used to it, as the player confessed to BasketNews. 

"Coming from Italy, I used to play only once a week and my playing time wasn't always particularly big", Procida explained. "Now I'm in a situation in which I have to play both in the domestic league and in EuroLeague, and I have a bigger role with more playing time and more responsibilities."

"I'm getting used to it, I still need to work a little bit on it, but this is the main step that I have to take, being ready and taking care of my body. From a tactical standpoint, there are also some elements that I need to work on because now I'm at the EuroLeague level and the type of work that I need to put in is different."

"In Italy, the basketball is a little bit more technical and there's a bit more talent, here in Germany the players tend to use more their body, and the level of physicality is higher," Procida continued. "The technical level is not as high as in Italy, but the difference is not that big. But yeah, the level of physicality is definitely higher, even the referees let play more and don't call some situations". 

Recently, after Anadolu Efes win against ALBA, Vasilije Micic shared some really nice words for the German club, praising how well they work with the young players and how their presence in EuroLeague is a great thing for European basketball.

The fact of being in a very unique environment is something that Procida understood quite soon. 

"Micic's words were really nice and he's absolutely right", Procida told BasketNews. "There are not a lot of teams like ALBA in Europe. They give many opportunities to the young players, we're one of the teams with the youngest average age in the competition. The type of confidence that they give to young players it's not something that you see every day."

"You can train well, but then if you don't play solid minutes, it'll always be difficult to improve. Being on the court and playing against more experienced players, both in EuroLeague and in the domestic league, that's where you see how much you can improve, that's the biggest lesson that you can get.

And in Europe, only a handful of teams work like ALBA in terms of developing young talents and giving them the right amount of trust and confidence. That's why I chose to play for them," he added.

Coach Israel Gonzalez is in his second season as head coach of ALBA Berlin, after spending four years as the main assistant of coach Aito Garcia. In July, he signed a multi-year contract extension with the German club that will keep him in Berlin until 2025, another sign of the long-term project of the club.

His style of coaching, based on great offensive fluidity and high-tempo basketball, fits well with Procida's skillset and so far the Italian wing is thriving under his management skills. 

"Coach Gonzalez is a really good coach, he's also able to speak quite well in Italian so that makes our communication a bit easier", the Italian player explained to BasketNews. "Also from the human perspective I believe he's a great person, a great communicator, we talk a lot, we joke sometimes, there's just a good atmosphere and that makes everything easier'. 

Procida was also part of the Italian national team's training camp before EuroBasket this summer. Although he didn't make the final roster, coach Gianmarco Pozzecco praised his attitude during his time in Pinzolo and made it clear that Procida will be part of the national team's future. 

"For me it was a great opportunity, being able to experience how you prepare for such a big tournament like EuroBasket", Procida said.

"There was a great atmosphere and my teammates were great in helping me during the training camp. It was pretty clear since the first few days that there was a great group in place and I believe that the spirit that I saw during the training camp was the main factor that led the team to the great performances during EuroBasket". 

Procida also shared his thoughts about the potential addition of Paolo Banchero, the no.1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, who might become part of the national team already for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, in case the national team manages to qualify for the event. 

"Banchero could be a huge add for the national team, especially because we don't have too many big men in the roster", the Italian wing explained. "Having a young guy like him with that type of potential, I believe it would benefit the entire movement, also to give more trust to the young players and have more of a positive attitude for the future". 

The future looks bright for this young Italian kid and the interest in his performances is growing every day. At only 20 years old he has already accomplished a lot but there's all the time in the world to do even more in the future. 


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