|Zandalasini is working hard to further sharpen her shooting skills and help Italy repeat their medal success at the U16 European Championship Women|
By Paul Nilsen
Cecilia Zandalasini of Italy could barely have wished for a better introduction to representing her country on the European stage than the one she experienced last year.
At the age of fifteen, the forward grabbed a spot in the All Tournament Team of the U16 European Championship Women, after pouring in over 15 points per game for Italy to proudly propel them to a bronze medal.
And, as if that wasn't special enough, an altogether wonderful rookie summer was made that little bit more special by the fact the podium finish was achieved in Caglairi, in front of a raucously partisan home crowd.
"It was an amazing experience," smiled Zandalasini reflecting on last year's accomplishment.
"It was my first European Championship and I was surprised to be in the All Tournament Team but of course I was so happy."
"It was fortunate for us that we were able to play in Cagliari and there were a lot of fans who supported us.
"Those people were so nice with us and I really want to thank them for the support they gave to us."
It wasn't only finding success on the court with the 'Azzurrine' which left the talented Zandalisini satisfied with her first summer's work.
For a youth European Championship can often be the place where lifetime friendships are formed for young players and also career rivalries which can potentially last for decades.
The 1996-born Zandalisini found herself admiring her adversaries on the court with a certain Belgiam Tournament MVP unsurprisingly catching the eye.
She freely admits: "I saw a lot of girls that I think are good players.
"Especially Hind Ben Abdelkader and also the entire Spanish team."
"I now class some players as friends and catch them on facebook."
Some people had thought Zandalasini may also have featured at the U18 European Championship in Romania this year but according to the player herself, her focus will be given entirely to repeating the medal success of last year at U16 level.
"I will go only to Hungary for the U16 European Championship but I'll train a lot with Italy's national team, probably for the whole summer," she explained.
"Every day I'm working to improve my defence - I'm trying to make it better."
IMPROVING ALL YEAR LONG
|Senior Italy international Ilaria Zanoni, who also plays for San Giovanni, is Zandalasini's role model|
Even at the tender age of sixteen, Zandalasini is already acquiring a very handy habit of winning since success has not been confined to her exploits in Cagliari.
She continues to rack up the accolades and winners' medals in Italian domestic youth basketball with Geas San Giovanni, the latest addition to her rapidly expanding resume being a thrilling U19 National Championship Final victory.
"This experience was amazing since we weren't the favourite team," admitted Zandalasini.
"Venezia's team was probably better than us but we played a great final and won the Championship.
"I'll never forget this victory."
While there is a long way to go until she reaches the level required to compete at senior club level, there is little doubt Zandalasini has managed to assemble a launchpad to realise her ambitions.
Like any young player, this means being like a sponge and soaking up every last drop of advice and experience she has with the professionals at Bracco Geas San Giovanni and not least Italian national team player Ilaria Zanoni.
"During this past year, I practiced a lot with the senior players of my team," Zandalasini said.
"This experience was for me very important because this way, they could teach me a lot.
"I learned so much from them and especially from Ilaria, who is for me a role model because we play a very similar style.
"I hope I'll play in the A1 division (Italy's top flight) during the next few years since for me it would be a dream come true."