Italy doesn’t have much in terms of NBA talent, with just one roster member in the association. But the cohesiveness of this Italy team could be a factor in trying to medal in a major tournament for the first time in two decades.
This is the tenth World Cup appearance for Italy, which is ranked tenth in the world by FIBA. The team has never finished above fourth in the competition, though.
Italy’s top player and lone NBA representative is Simone Fontecchio, who averaged 6.3 points per game off the bench for the Utah Jazz during his rookie season. He’s one of the best shooters in Europe and averaged at least 19 points per game in both the Olympics and last year’s EuroBasket, where he made more than 45 percent of his threes.
Another player with previous NBA experience is Nicolo Melli, who has been on the Italian national team for a decade. During EuroBasket, he was the second-leading scorer and rebounder for the team and third in assists, an all-around game that should serve the squad well.
One player to watch is big man Guglielmo Caruso, who played his college ball at Santa Clara. He played at Varese last year and the 24-year-old is on the rise, recently signing a long-term pact with Olimipa Milano.
Italy should be able to advance out of Group A, which includes the Dominican Republic, the hosting Philippines, and Angola. Once the knockout rounds come around, having a dynamic scorer like Fontecchio could shift games in Italy’s favor.