DiVincenzo in the mix for Italy

    NEW YORK (USA) - Italy could bolster their squad for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico with Donte DiVincenzo. "To wear the Azzurri jersey would be truly special," the Knicks star said.

    NEW YORK (USA) - Italy have talent in abundance. The national team also has, compared to a few years ago when it won the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, a lot more experience.

    "TO WEAR THE AZZURRI JERSEY WOULD BE TRULY SPECIAL."

     

    Yet, Italy are not exempt from an important rule in international basketball, that national teams must always look for ways to get better. They can never rest on their laurels. If that means adding players to their talent pools, so be it.

    With that in mind, Italy could bolster their squad with another player with Italian heritage in time for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico, which tips off on July 2.

    That player is New York Knicks rising star Donte DiVincenzo. 

    The 27-year-old, who has family roots in Italy, said in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport that "to wear the Azzurri jersey would be truly special."

    "My agent is talking to the federation," he said. "Naturally there is some bureaucratic paperwork to take care of and my father, whose family comes from Abruzzo, is working on it.

    "I am obviously thinking about the season with the Knicks but I have to say that I'm very eager to measure myself with FIBA basketball and I have always harbored the desire to play with the Italian national team.

    "It would be truly wonderful to be able to represent the country where a big part of my family originates from."

    DiVincenzo would be an asset to any team with his high IQ defense, athleticism and above-average shooting from three-point range.  He can create his own shot off the dribble and is also a good catch-and-shoot player.

    What's more, he's in the form of his life with New York, averaging 14.3 points per game while shooting 39.9 percent from three-point range. The Knicks are fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 39-27 record.

     

    Italy already have a very good team. After winning the OQT in Serbia and then reaching the Quarter-Finals of the Tokyo Games, they fell to France in overtime at FIBA EuroBasket 2022 in the Quarter-Finals. The Italians then found their groove at the FIBA Basketball World Cup last year in Manila, where they beat eventual finalists Serbia to clinch first place in their Second Round group.

    Then they went off the rails against a star-studded American team in the Quarter-Finals.

    Italy, with a normally potent offense, hit a dry spell against the USA and fell apart, losing 100-63.

    Italy bounced back last month, in the first window of qualification games for FIBA EuroBasket 2025. They played without star Simone Fontecchio yet were excellent, especially on defense, against Finland at home and then away against Hungary, and won twice.

    With linchpins Fontecchio, Nicolo Melli, Marco Spissu, Achille Polonara, Stefano Tonut and Nico Mannion expected to go at the OQT, Italy are not short of talent. Yet, adding DiVincenzo could make them stronger. He's the type of player, judging on past experience like when he played for the Golden State Warriors and the Milwaukee Bucks in previous seasons, that could blend in well.

    Even if things do not proceed quickly enough so that he plays at the OQT, DiVincenzo would still want to represent the country.

    "I want to give my availability medium to long term," he said. "I'm not interested in giving a summer to the national team and saying goodbye to everyone. I want to be available for the next years.

    "It's been for some time that I consider the idea of playing for the national team in the summer as a great opportunity for me and I intend to do so for a long time if given the possibility.

    "The idea to represent Italy in an international competition has always attracted me.

    "I've often spoken even with Nico Mannion. We had contact ahead of EuroBasket 2022 but COVID slowed everything. The year after, I had to have an ankle operation. And then free agency arrived. Now I've found a new home here with the Knicks and I'm really well. I'm ready to give my full availability for the FIBA dates in the coming years.

    "It seems strange, but for me to wear the Azzurri jersey would be truly special. I hope this can happen."

    DiVincenzo would not be the first player with connections to USA to suit up for Italy. National team playmaker Mannion is also from USA and former point guard Daniel Hackett was born in Italy but left for America to attend high school and then played college basketball there.

    Another reason why there's plenty of incentive for Italy to have DiVincenzo in their lineup? He's a winner.

    He claimed two NCAA titles while at Villanova University in Philadelphia, even being named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament in 2018, and also won an NBA title with Milwaukee in 2021.

    FIBA

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