Whether you know him as Scal, Mr. Hustle or the White Mamba, Benetton Treviso fans recognize new signee Brian Scalabrine as “one of us” – and with good reason. The former Boston Celtic is enjoying a banner year with the Eurocup side and has established himself as a bona fide team leader in Serie A play. BallinEurope’s man in Italy, Enrico Cellini, takes a look at the phenomenon.
It is something of an informal tradition for Italian basketball fans to sing songs and chants to support their teams during basketball games, and a very short while passed before fans of Benetton Treviso dedicated a personal chant to Brian Scalabrine. They immediately opted for “Scalabrine uno di noi!” (“Scalabrine is one of us”).
Scalabrine is paying back his new fans’ warm welcome. On Sunday, he was decisive in the Treviso’s victory against Cantù: despite scoring only six points (though with only one missed shot; Scal was 2-of-3 in the game), he grabbed 15 rebounds, dished three assists and provided plenty of smart plays that do not go in the statistics. In the previous match against Avellino, Scal accounted for 18 points with eight field goals out of ten attempts.
Coach Aleksandar Đorđević has kept the White Mamba on the court for an average of 32 minutes per game so far and the player is producing 12 points and 6.3 rebounds for an average index performance rating of 17.3 per game. The feeling is that both coach and teammates now acknowledge Scalabrine as one of the leaders of the team.
But don’t dare be surprised: Scalabrine had already warned anyone as soon as he stepped onto Italian soil. At his presentation this summer, he broke down his credentials in front of some mesmerized journalists: “I was an all-American in college, when I had the opportunity to play I played well. You know, my winning percentage is one of the highest in the NBA as a starter.”
Scalabrine successfully passed the tryout phase in September (and the skepticism on his physical shape) and applied to get an Italian passport, which would make even more appealing in the European market. Many in Italy are starting to believe he is not (just) a media phenomenon but also an excellent basketball player. After all, stats don’t lie. Too bad Italian journalists forgot to ask him the percentage of NBA games he played as a starter…
Enrico Cellini is lifelong basketball fanatic and a long-time sportswriter with a focus on Italy and Spain. He was born among European hoops, raised watching the NBA, and thinks choosing between American and European basketball is like choosing between one’s mother and father. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Italian-language blog Hoop Addicted.