Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Belinelli onboard with Italy

Marco Belinelli firmly declared on Wednesday that he'll go into battle for Italy this summer in their tough EuroBasket 2011 qualifying campaign.

The shooting guard made his announcement at Italy's Olympic headquarters in Rome.

"There's little to say," Belinelli said.

"I was the first to say yes to the national team and I will do everything possible to help Italy get back to high levels."

Belinelli joins his Toronto Raptors teammate Andrea Bargnani in Italy's set-up this summer.

Under new coach Simone Pianigiani, who is currently coaching Montepaschi Siena in Italy's top flight, Belinelli and Bargnani will try to help fire the Azzurri to a high enough finish that qualifies the country for next year's EuroBasket in Lithuania.

The Italians will take on Latvia, Israel, Finland and Montenegro in Group A. Italy won the silver medal at the 2004 Olympics and competed at the 2006 FIBA World Championship and EuroBasket 2007 in Spain. They missed out, however, on the 2008 Beijing Games and last year's EuroBasket in Poland.

Italy Basketball Federation president Dino Meneghin and Giovanni Petrucci, the president of CONI (Italian Olympic Committee), sat alongside Belinelli as he spoke at a news conference.

"I am happy to present Marco Belinelli in the Azzurri," Meneghin said.

"When we spoke during the year, I never had any doubts and once his season in the NBA was over, he immediately responded positively. A thank you to Marco, who gives up his holidays because he knows that the most important team is the national team. He is not here to be the top star but to give his precious contribution to the team."

Belinelli, 24, averaged 7.1 points in 17 minutes per game for Toronto this season - his first with the Canadian team after spending his first two years in the NBA with Golden State. Italian basketball fans will also be hoping that Danilo Gallinari of the New York Knicks is able to play this summer. Injuries have prevented Gallinari from wearing the Italian shirt the past three years.

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