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“I’m used to set great goals, in Milano I will try to prove myself once more”: Pippo Ricci is ready for the next challenge

18/07/2021
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Giampaolo is his name, but Ricci is Pippo for everybody else, a late bloomer, who came to the top Italian league at 26. He was supposed to be a marginal player for Cremona, instead he became a key member of a team capable to win the Italian Cup. It was his launching pad that pushed him up to Bologna, more wins, international basketball competitions, and obviously the National Team. Now, he’s coming to Milano, more aspirations and another step up because he will make his EuroLeague debut.

  • Pippo, talk about your basketball love.

“Mine is a basketball family. My mom used to play in Chieti, Abruzzo, up to the second division. My dad was a third division player. My brother, too, was a player, between the two of us he was the really good one, I developed my fascination following him. Then he was scoring 40 points and I didn’t score at all, so I quit for a while, trying to play soccer. I remember one year when I played both sports. From three to five I played soccer then I changed my shoes and moved to the basketball court. But basketball was my love, so I gave up soccer and focused only on basketball.”

  • Your dad is also your biggest fan, right?

“My dad is always there for me. He attended all my wins. And my losses. He is getting crazy for this Olympic chance, he wanted to come to Tokyo, however the city is closed, the fans are not going to be allowed, so he will have to wake up early in the morning and watch my games on tv.”

  • You got to the top Italian league at 26. Why?

“I have been underrated a little bit, and I have always tried to move up one step at a time, trying to be good at the level I was playing at, trying to improve year by year. I also started from very far, so it took time to climb the ladders, remove the obstacles. I started from the third division, moved up to the second division, the A2, it was a long journey, but I got to the top at the right time, I never took shortcuts, I’m glad, I wouldn’t change anything.”

  • The Cremona years were crucial for your development.

“Cremona was my launching pad. I’m grateful to Coach Meo Sacchetti, he was the one who led me to the top, for two years he’s watched me in the gym every day and at the end he rewarded me with a call to the National Team. I’m glad that I earned his appreciation, in the beginning he didn’t know me, so I tried to surprise him and maybe surprise myself a little bit, overcome my limits and improve. Cremona is a perfect place to work, it’s a family club where I left a piece of my heart. Winning the Italian Cup there in 2019 was like completing a job with a special group of players. I’m happy I was able to leave something of me to the people of Cremona.”

  • What are you bringing to the table as a player?

“What I bring to the table is not on the stats sheet, I always try to approach the game with a lot of energy, helping the team with something at the defensive end of the floor. I’m glad I have been a key member of the wins I achieved, because it means the hard work and details are going to make a difference. I can help in a variety of ways, not just by making some threes.”

  • Being a member of the National Team was a surprise to you?

“I hope about it, because Coach Sacchetti knew how I work, and I was playing well. I care a lot. When I got my first e-mail with the call I almost passed out, it was a crazy feeling. Then window after window, day after day, year after year, I earned my niche. I’m happy to have been part of a historic qualification, for a basketball player or an athlete in general going to the Olympics is the best feeling in the world. I’m still try to process what’s about to happen, going to Tokyo, I’m just happy.”

  • You were a member of the historic Italian win in Belgrade at the Pre-Olympic Tournament.

“I got a text from a friend, he said that we have exhibited a basketball concept at the same time humble and powerful. I think he is right. We were a group of guys dying to prove something, humble, who never took anything for granted, wanted to earn everything the hard way, with confidence and desire to stay together. We looked ourselves in the eyes when it was time, we experienced touching moments, we stayed together a few days, but we shared a lot of emotions. We deserved to win, we gave everything we got, 30-minute players and guys who played a lot less, it was the underdog win. We won with defense, humility, fighting for each and every possession in order to do something great.”

  • Excited about going to the Olympics?

“I’d like to enjoy every single moment, it doesn’t happen to everybody. On my tendon, I have a tattoo “Enjoy the Journey”, this is what I will try to do, work a lot, work hard, have a lot of fun and at the end we’ll find out what we’re capable to accomplish.”

  • You got the call from Milano too.

“Coach Messina expressed a lot of appreciation for me. This is what I liked the more. I’m super happy and proud to have been selected by Milan, I think it is another step up in my career. I’m embracing this adventure as something really new and beautiful. I’m ready for another challenge, I’m ready to show once more who I am and what I can do, helping this great and historic team and organization to reach our goals.”

  • Coming to Milano was a hard decision?

“It was a difficult decision, but the most ambitious decision. I’m used to set great goals, maybe I will take a punch, but I’m dying to prove myself once more. It’s going to be a difficult season, very long, for me the EuroLeague will be something completely new, but I feel ready to earn everything I will be able to earn, to work with this staff, these guys, and I will try to accomplish and enjoy the journey.”

PIPPO RICCI
PIPPO RICCI
PIPPO RICCI