01 - 09
July 2017
9 Alessandro Pajola (ITA)
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Beach lover Pajola ready to bring Italy finally back to U19 podium

ROME (FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017) - When Alessandro Pajola isn't around the basketball court he loves spending time on the beach. Lately the Italian point guard talent has been staring off into the sea dreaming of finally winning another medal for Italy at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup.

Two years ago Italy snapped a 20-year drought of not making the U19 global showcase. Pajola now hopes to lead the Italians back onto the U19 podium for the first time since 1991 - eight years before he was even born.

"I think it's time to try to win a medal," Pajola said when told of the country's last podium finish at the tournament.

Italy grabbed third place at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016 to book their second straight ticket to the U19 tournament and will take on Angola, Iran and the United States in Group D of the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017 in Cairo from 1-9 July.

Pajola admitted he is looking forward to facing the two-time reigning champions from the United States.

"For us it will be a pleasure to play against one of the big favorites in the tournament. We know their physical and athletic skills, we have to play smart and really focus on defense," said Pajola, who will turn 18 in November.

And the 6ft 4in (1.92m) point guard relishes in playing tough defense.

"In my opinion, it is the most important part of the game. Playing defense is a mix of physical skills and mental skills. For sure if you play hard defense you will find an open shot on offense," said Pajola, who has been with Virtus Bologna since 2015 and played 27 games in the Italian second division Serie A2 this season and averaged 2.0 points, 1.0 assists and 0.5 steals in 9 minutes of action. He also guided Virtus Bologna to the Italian U18 title.

When it comes to offense, Pajola will certainly learn a thing or two in Cairo, playing alongside with team leader Davide Moretti.

"He is the captain and our reference point on and off the court. He has experience so he helps everybody in difficult moments," Pajola said of Moretti, who was named to the All-Star Five of the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016. "I observe him especially in his offensive movements and in his capability to control the game."

When not thinking about playing tough defense or getting his teammates into good position on offense, Pajola enjoys getting out to the seaside.

"Every time there is an occasion of some free time I spend it around my sea," said Pajola, who hails from Ancona, which is situated along the Adriatic Sea. "When I'm on the beach I just have fun with all my friends."

And lately part of that fun has been thinking about getting to the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017 podium.