17-year old Matteo Visintin from Italy is one of the most promising young prospects in Europe. He made his pro debut in Italian 2nd Division at age 16 and this season he has already started to get regular rotation minutes for the Stella Azzurra Rome senior team as well as starring for their junior team which he led to the Adidas Next Generation Tournament finals in Istanbul.
Always more of a scorer at junior level, he has shown a lot of progress this year in his playmaking, too, and shows a lot of potential as a combo guard even for higher levels of competition. He could develop into a Davide Moretti-like player for a high mid-major college program and will definitely have many options to consider in the near future.
In this interview, Matteo Visintin talks about how he was first drawn to basketball, his daily life at the Stella Azzurra Rome Academy, some of the toughest opponents he has faced, his own strengths and weaknesses, as well as his future goals.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present Italian prospect Matteo Visintin, from Trieste, Italy:
Pro Insight: Tell us about yourself and your family. Who is Matteo Visintin? Where are you from?
Matteo Visintin: I am 17 years old and I was born and raised in Trieste, Italy. Everyone in my family plays or has played some type of sport. My father played soccer and my mother played basketball when they were my age. I also have one sister (three years younger) who plays basketball, too, and I am proud to say that I am the one who transmitted my passion of basketball to her! I actually started to play basketball around the house when I was only four years old. I have always LOVED basketball and never really had any interest in other sports growing up.
PI: When did you start playing organized basketball and how did you end up coming to Rome to play for the Stella Azzurra Basketball Academy?
MV: I started to play with a local team in Trieste called Arcobaleno and I gained some notoriety at a young age also by winning the state championship as well as some national 3-on-3 tournaments. When I was 14 years old several prominent Italian youth teams started to follow me and Stella Azzurra was definitely the best team trying to recruit me so I didn’t think twice about joining their program as soon as they offered me a spot. So this will be my third season with them.
PI: Have you been able to visit your family much this season?
MV: Well in the past my family would often either come to visit me in Rome or at least come to see me play whenever I was playing near Trieste. This year obviously it was a problem for them to visit me due to covid restrictions, but I managed to meet up with them a couple times when we played a game or tournament in Northeastern Italy this season.
PI: Tell us a bit about yourself as a player? What are your strengths and what do you think you need to improve at?
MV: My strong points are my intensity and my aggressiveness on both sides of the court. Also I think I am a pretty good athlete for this level. I have a good mid-range pull-up jump shot but I need to improve my three-point shooting so I am working a lot on that after practices now. I am also working to improve my pick-and-roll game more this season as I am starting to get more opportunities to handle the ball.
PI: So you would consider yourself as more of a combo guard than a primary ballhandler?
MV: Yes, I see myself as a combo guard, long term — a guy who can fill in as needed both as a scorer and as an initiator.
PI: Is there a player who you kind of model your game after or that you think you resemble?
MV: I try to take something from different players. In Europe a guy that I look at a lot is Shane Larkin. I also really like Mike James.
PI: Who is your favorite player?
MV: I would say Russell Westbrook. He is fun to watch and I like that he can do so many different things out on the court — score, create, defend.
PI: Do you watch a lot of basketball? Do you watch many NBA games?
MV: I watch a lot of games, in general. Of course I love the NBA but I probably watch even more Euroleague games because it is much closer to my reality. I never miss a Milan game in Euroleague and I really like watching Barcelona, Real Madrid and Efes Istanbul, among others. The Euroleague playoffs have been very competitive this season — so many close games!
PI: Who is the best player or the toughest guy you have had to guard this season?
MV: To be honest, even though this is my first season at pro level and I still have so much to learn, I can’t say that I have faced anyone I couldn’t guard or keep up with. Among my peers, the player that has impressed me the most this season is Matteo Spagnolo from Real Madrid. When we played them last year I thought we did a good job guarding him, but this year at the Adidas Next Generation Tournament finals in Istanbul he was unstoppable for me. He has really improved a lot and is going to be a great player.
PI: Did you play together with Matteo Spagnolo before he went to Madrid?
MV: Actually no, we just missed each other. I arrived in Stella Azzurra the year he left.
PI: You guys came very close to beating Real Madrid in the ANGT championship game in Istanbul this year, probably the closest anyone has been in recent memory. Had Spagnolo still been on your side you probably would have won this time around?
MV: We would have been unbeatable (laughs). Actually, two years ago, my first season here in Stella Azzurra, when we still had Yannick Nzosa (a potential future NBA lottery pick) too, we beat Real Madrid twice.
PI: Have you considered the option of playing in the NCAA, yet?
MV: Yes, of course I would be interested in going to the USA to play in the NCAA also, but thus far no college team has offered me a scholarship. I am keeping all of my options open, though. I don’t have an agent yet and I trust that the Stella Azzurra coaching staff will advise me and help me make the right choices for my future. Right now, I am simply working hard to be the best player I can be.
PI: What is your academics situation?
MV: I am in my third year of high school (which is five years long in Italy) so I have two more years until I get my diploma. I go to a regular public high school every morning. Obviously this year we have split time between online courses and actual physical presence lessons but I have managed to maintain my good grades. Here at Stella Azzurra we have access to any kind of tutoring we need. My high school courses are heavy in the mathematics and science department. I am studying English too, of course, and actually speak it pretty well now because I am around so many foreign players on a daily basis.
PI: What do you like to do in your free time?
MV: I don’t really have much free time (laughs). In the morning I go to class, in the afternoon I usually practice with the U18 team and then after I rest before practicing again with the pro team in the evening. After dinner, I often have to finish up my homework. So really my main activity when I am not studying or playing basketball is resting up and recharging my batteries.
PI: And finally, what are your long-term goals?
MV: I will take things step-by-step. I hope to be able to have an even bigger role with both the Stella Azzurra junior and senior teams for the remainder of the season. This summer I hope to play for the Italian U18 National Team. Then we will see what happens next year. Maybe college. Maybe a bigger role with the Stella Azzurra pro team. Maybe I will be loaned to another team. The important thing is that I can continue to pursue my dream of playing basketball for a living.