Meet the italian freshmen
Moretti, Lever, Stefanini and Bernardi: a quick look at four italian players about to make their debut in Division I basketball.
G | 6-2 | 165 lbs | Texas Tech | 1998: #1
Moretti is the most well-known and talented player among italian student-athletes and also the one that will face the most arduous personal challenge as a Division I basketball player. This summer, the son of coach Paolo Moretti chose Texas Tech over Utah, Indiana and UConn right after a season where he established his status as a competitive Serie A2 player (2nd professional tier in Italy), averaging 12.7 points and 2.2 assists per game for Treviso Basket. This combo guard is widely known for his scoring and long-range shooting skills but also showed improvements in other aspects of his offensive game during the last year (notably: driving to the basket and off-the-ball movement). On the other hand, defense is still not his strongest suit. Moretti is way more experienced than most D-I freshmen: still, it is possible to see him facing some struggles during his first year in the US, as he’ll meet a different style of play and more athletic opponents than ever before in his past.
F | 6-10 | 230 lbs | Grand Canyon | 1998: #7
Among italian freshmen, Lever is the one most likely to have a significant impact on his team. The former Pallacanestro Reggiana forward-center showed some interesting things in the two exhibition games played by Grand Canyon, especially the one against NAIA team St. Francis (IL): no hesitation in taking long-range jumpers, court vision and ability to attack off the dribble both good enough for a big man. Coach Dan Majerle is willing to give much playing time to both Lever and the other european freshman on the team: Roberts Blumbergs, a talentend latvian wing-forward. The two share some similar skills – although in different degrees – and, together, could provide few interesting offensive options for the Lopes. Overall, it looks like Lever has the right weapons to be a solid contributor but he also has some areas to work on. While being very optimistic about his player, Dan Majerle also pointed out that he has to improve on D (“He’s going to have to learn to guard if he’s going to play against smaller guys”) and learn to use some of his skills more wisely (“He’s got a better post-up game than he showed [against St. Francis]. He’s just got to be more patient and use his size”).
G | 6-3 | 198 lbs | Columbia | 1999: #7
Stefanini is an under-the-radar prospect with plenty of good qualities that he can bring on the floor. He was able to build a good rep for himself in New Jersey high school hoops during his two years at Bergen Catholic, averaging more than 17 points per game with high shooting percentages (56 FG%, 46 3P% and 90 FT%) in his senior year. Gabe has a very solid and wide repertoire: ambidextrous, good ball handler, highly efficient spot-up shooter who can also create off the dribble, average athlete (not very explosive) but balanced and strong enough to attack the paint effectively. His rebound skills are well developed for a combo guard: by combining this aspect with a pretty reliable court vision, he can be very valuable on fastbreak plays. During the offseason, Coach Jim Engles was positively impressed by Stefanini and his maturity: it is likely to see him having solid minutes coming off the bench, especially as a shooting guard.
G | 6-4 | 180 lbs | Marist | 1997: unranked
Here’s another combo guard on this list. Bernardi is first of all a very good athlete with notable jumping abilities and a decent jumpshot. He didn’t had much playing time at the higher level during his last two years in Italy. In the 2015-16 season, he averaged 4.4 minutes (13 games) in Serie A2 with Scaligera Verona. Last year, he was sent on the floor three times by Aquila Trento in Serie A (1st tier) but only for very few minutes. He mostly played for Riva del Garda in Serie C Silver (5th tier), where he averaged 19.8 points per game. Bernardi has the potential to became a versatile contributor at the mid-major level but he will have to work hard on his playmaking skills.