While NBA fans are guessing what kind of player Donatas Motiejunas will become, they should know that the Lithuanian big man is not the only gem on Benetton Treviso. Alessandro Gentile, a son of legendary Italian basketball player Ferdinando Gentile and a teammate of Motiejunas, is one of the best talents in Europe. The guard will enter his fourth season as a professional basketball player next year and he’s just 18-years-old.
Last summer was probably the best in Gentile’s career. The guard played for Italian national team in two youth tournaments, U18 and U20, this summer, where he was the leader of the teams. Gentile, who was only 17-year-old at that time, averaged respectively 23 points and 17.3 points there.
Gentile has been proving all season long that if he’s not making it to the NBA, he still could be the next “big thing” in Europe.
RealGM talked with the European prospect last summer about his career plans, NBA and Italian basketball problems.
RealGM: Despite your young age, you absolutely dominate in youth tournaments (U20 and U18). Have you already thought that it’s time to become a member of Italian national team?
Gentile: I think that I’m still too young for that. Maybe I will play for my country next year, or maybe I will make it in the next two. I would be proud to play for Italy, for example, [this] year in the European championship, which will be held in Lithuania.
RealGM: Do you sometimes thing about the NBA Draft?
Gentile: Not really, right know I’m focused on the present. I’m only interested on improving myself. Of course, it would be a great honor to play in the highest level – NBA.
RealGM: If you would have a chance to choose – NBA or Europe?
Gentile: The main thing is if I would go to the NBA, I would want to be one of the main guys and if I would be able just to sit on the bench, I would prefer to play in Europe. There is no doubt – Euroleague is still a high level competition.
RealGM: Did you ever talk with NBA agents? Did you get any attention from the strongest league?
Gentile: No, I have never talked with anyone. I’m just focused on my team and that’s it.
RealGM: There are a lot of great European players like Ramunas Siskauskas who never played in the NBA. Would it be okay for you to spend your whole career in Europe?
Gentile: For sure, it’s not a problem. But like I said, right know I don’t think that I can play in the NBA, we will see what I can in the next few years. I still don’t know if I play on high level in Europe or not, we will see it in the near future.
RealGM: You said that your goal is to be a main guy on a team. In your opinion, which aspects of your game need to improve the most to reach this goal?
Gentile: First of all – my body, I need to improve it. Certainly, I’m (still in my teens) so I need to improve my all basketball elements.
RealGM: Let’s talk about your idols. Do you have a favorite NBA team or favorite players?
Gentile: My main team is the Los Angeles Lakers and the player – of course, Kobe Bryant. I loved the Lakers since my childhood, always watched their games. However, my idol was my father, who also was a basketball player.
RealGM: As you know, some guys, like Enes Kanter, decided to continue his career in the NCAA. Did you ever think about it, leaving Europe and going to the States?
Gentile: Because of my contract with Benetton I can’t go to the USA and play for a college. Honestly, I would like to play in the States but I didn’t get any offers and right now there are no possibilities to play there.
RealGM: It is obvious that it’s not the best times for Italy basketball – the Italian national team went from the elite to the bottom. In your opinion, what are the reasons of this?
Gentile: I think in Italy there are a lot of young players, who don’t have good coaches. Right know in Italy the most important thing is to win, not to develop great players. As you know, Jonas Valanciunas will play for Lietuvos Rytas and they want to grow up him as a very good player and it’s definitely the right way for young talent. In Italy, if you miss one shot, you will sit on the bench because they need to win games. In other case, coaches would lose their jobs.
Also, I think that a lot of young players don’t have good intentions, they don’t want to practice very hard. Sometimes they don’t want to demonstrate that they can actually play better.
RealGM: Do you think that the basketball system in Italy is broken? It seems like it doesn’t work now because in the past or just few years ago Italy has a lot of talents, for example Andrea Bargnani.
Gentile: Yes, Bargnani is a first overall NBA Draft pick but in my opinion, it was a poor pick. He’s a great player but I don’t think that he’s worth a first pick. Italy has three players in the NBA and it’s because the NBA level went down. A few decades ago there were just few players from Europe and now many European players had a chance to join the NBA. However, we are the best young Italian players and we need to be like an example for others.