In the world-famous scenario of the Armani / Teatro, introduced by the general manager Christos Stavropoulos (“We have built a more balanced team looking above all, for leadership, experience and athleticism, we are happy – indeed very happy – to be here with Gigi Datome”, he said), Gigi Datome lived the first day as a player at Olimpia. Practice in the morning and official introduction to the media in the afternoon.
WHY MILAN – “I know I’m superficial, but Milan is a growing club in terms of ambitions and as a structure. I’ve always had the thought of winning in Italy. I have made a nice personal journey, abroad, but now I would like to win something in Italy, playing for an Italian team. Then, Armani, Milan, Olimpia, I might sound rhetorical, there is a coach like Ettore Messina, teammates with whom I can’t wait to play, it’s all very motivating.”
THE CHOICE – “I waited to understand some things, to take the right steps, in leaving a club like Fenerbahce that has given me a lot and to which I am very close. I want to thank Fenerbahce once more, for giving the opportunity to opt out of the contract. It took time, because I wanted to do everything appropriately, I knew it would happen because there was this will from both sides, but I didn’t want to rush anything. Yes, I saw that there was a little bit of a hurry around.”
MILAN AFTER PLAYING FOR FENER – “After the NBA I wanted to play at the highest possible level, as a protagonist, with great goals. I found the best conditions at Fenerbahce. Now I have made a different choice, which I hope is equally correct, still playing for great goals. This is what drives you to go to the gym every day and work hard to leave nothing to chance.”
THE RETURN TO ITALY – “I come back at a particular historical moment, it would be nice if in our small way we could do something to brighten the people’s days, to entertain them in spite of the current economic situation. From the outside I have seen in recent years a country that everyone likes, appreciated, perhaps more appreciated outside than inside, I am only sorry that many young people have not had the opportunity to realize themselves here, but I say this as a privileged one. The league had lost some vigor for many reasons, but since last year with the arrival of many great players things are changing. Milan did great things in the summer, and we must not disappoint these kind of expectations. However, people’s passion for basketball has never been in question. I hope that we will soon be able to see this passion in the buildings”.
WHAT HE BRINGS TO MILAN – “Many players are talented, but the experience of playing at certain levels is really important. This I hope to bring to Milan, what I did at Fenerbahce, but also in America or before in Rome. But there are many players and coaches here who know everything we need even better than I do.”
COACH MESSINA – “I already worked under him with the national team, I know him, and I will know him better, because the National team experience is limited to a few months. I think he wanted me to be who I am as a person and as a player within the team. The leadership is not chosen at the table, it comes from the locker room, in the gym, on the court. This season, I just hope it can begin, continue, and end regularly. For example, the level of the EuroLeague will be very high. Many players have been able to prepare themselves better in this situation and will express great values, they will benefit from it.”
THE ROLE IN THE TEAM – “A player always wants to play, to go on the court to stay. In Turkey when the rules forced me to stay out in the league, I was not happy. Then I used those days in the best way I could, but I’m happy when I can go on the court. Here I consider myself available for everything the team needs me to do.”
THE STOPPAGE – “I experienced it as an opportunity to work on my body, a job that I normally could not do: the many summers spent with the national team gave me a lot of satisfaction and emotions, but they take away from you something and increase the mileage in the legs. I tried to get the best out of this situation, even though I was tired of training alone and now I’m happy to have started to work again with my teammates.”
THE WELCOME IN MILAN – “The warmth with which Milan welcomed me has always surprised me. It was normal for this to happen in Rome, and for this I have always thanked the fans. It surprised me. But honestly my choice was basketball related, I chose the best possible basketball situation. And it was Milan. Basketball is my priority. Then Milan, Italy, the fans, the closeness to friends are all added values of this choice that remains based on basketball considerations.”
THE NATIONAL TEAM – “11 months of intense basketball await us, a lot of time. If I am fine, as I always have, I will be available. Everyone says we have no hope so maybe it will be the right time for us to do something important. But it’s still a long way off, we’re waiting for the season to end. Anything can happen.”
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ROLE – “I have always felt responsible. The first responsibility is for my name, my family, then I have the responsibility while playing for the national team, then as the national team captain, now I wear an important uniform like the Olimpia one. I will try, in my small way, to spread a positive message, but first of all, I would like to speak through my game.”
THE TEAMMATES – “It motivates me to play with so many great players that will make me improve. I am especially interested in how they approach everyday work. I consider myself lucky to play with them, for a coaching staff of this level and this ambitious club.”
THE RIVALS IN ITALY – “I don’t think there will be any easy games in Italy, because everyone against Milan will want to give their best, it is a situation that I have already experienced at Fenerbahce. Then there will be more heartfelt games than others, with more tension surrounding them, even in the media, but those are the games that everyone wants to play.”