Warrior Wire: Federico Gallinari

by Federico Gallinari
Guest Writer

Warrior Wire is a new segment in Shield Magazine that works as an outlet for Rochester College athletes to voice their life experiences, opinions and thoughts in their own words. - Nicklas Grifhorst, Editor in Chief.

Hello, my name is Federico Gallinari. I’m a sophomore double majoring in sports management and accounting at Rochester College. My story is a little bit different from other students here. First, I’m from Italy, and this is my third year in the USA. My parents live in Milan, located in the northern part of Italy, and my brother lives in Los Angeles, but you will learn about him in a little bit.

I play basketball for Rochester, but everything started when I was 5 years old. I was born with a basketball in my hands as my dad played professional basketball in Italy for 20 years, and my older brother also was playing. At that time, the “American Dream,” wasn’t in my dreams yet.

My first taste of America was in 2008 when my brother was drafted by the New York Knicks, and my family moved to New York for a while. I was just 10 years old when he was drafted; he was 19. I did not fully realize what was going on, but hey, I was in New York! After that moment, my relationship with the United States got stronger and stronger because I started to grow up and realize that my brother was in the NBA and that was, and still is, super cool.

New Beginnings

I started playing with the Assigeco Casalpusterlengo club team when I was 10 years old, and I left at age 17. We don’t have school teams in Italy, and I would say that thanks to this club, I am the player that I am right now. I spent those seven years playing with the older kids; in Italy you usually play with the kids that are your age.

In the 2013-14 season, my team in the 19 year-old category won the Italian national championship. I was the youngest on the team. I didn’t play much, but that was a crazy experience and I will not forget that moment. My last year in Italy, I decided to play for another club team with older and more experienced people. After these seven years, the USA chapter of my life began.

From Italy to America

At the beginning of that year, my parents and I decided to start the process of finding a school. At the same time, I was graduating high school. I had difficulty managing my basketball schedule and my school schedule, but I made it through. Right after graduation in Italy, I went to Sunrise Christian Academy, a prep-school in Kansas. It was a tough year for me as I was away from my family and friends in a place that was in the middle of nowhere. Also,  I had to take some time to learn better English. It was a really helpful year for me though, because I matured a lot and I improved my confidence in myself.

Playing college basketball becomes reality

Now the fun part of my journey starts. I was at the end of my prep-school season, and I decided to go back to Denver, Colorado, where my brother, Danilo, was playing for the Nuggets at the time. They were in the offseason so I decided to work out with the team. I was by far not the best player, but it helped me a lot. At the same time, I was playing pick-up games at LifeTime Fitness in Denver when one day this guy came up to me and asked if I was looking to play in college.

In my thick Italian accent, I answered, “Yes, of course.”

The next day I received a message from Coach Tom Webb from Rochester College. He was the assistant coach at the time, and he asked me to come to Michigan for a visit and a pick-up game with the guys.

Great! The American dream is getting closer and closer!

My dad and I took a flight to Michigan and stayed there for the next three days. While there, I played with the guys and Coach Klint Pleasant told me that he wanted me on the team. I was so excited! Every single Italian basketball player of my age has the dream to play in the USA, and I just got asked to play for a college team. After my visit, I went back to Denver, and a week later, I signed with Rochester College.

Life at RC

I am now in my second year at Rochester College, where my double major and basketball commitment are keeping me busy. I’m really enjoying my college life and am excited to play this season after spending last season redshirted, which means I sat out my first year so that I could gain experience and extend my eligibility. I want to thank my parents and my friends who are always with me, and a special thanks to Coach Pleasant and the coaching staff who gave me this opportunity.

I play basketball for Rochester, but everything started when I was 5 years old. I was born with a basketball in my hands as my dad played professional basketball in Italy for 20 years, and my older brother also was playing. At that time, the “American Dream,” wasn’t in my dreams yet.

My first taste of America was in 2008 when my brother was drafted by the New York Knicks, and my family moved to New York for a while. I was just 10 years old when he was drafted; he was 19. I did not fully realize what was going on, but hey, I was in New York! After that moment, my relationship with the United States got stronger and stronger because I started to grow up and realize that my brother was in the NBA and that was, and still is, super cool.

New Beginnings

I started playing with the Assigeco Casalpusterlengo club team when I was 10 years old, and I left at age 17. We don’t have school teams in Italy, and I would say that thanks to this club, I am the player that I am right now. I spent those seven years playing with the older kids; in Italy you usually play with the kids that are your age.

In the 2013-14 season, my team in the 19 year-old category won the Italian national championship. I was the youngest on the team. I didn’t play much, but that was a crazy experience and I will not forget that moment. My last year in Italy, I decided to play for another club team with older and more experienced people. After these seven years, the USA chapter of my life began.

From Italy to America

At the beginning of that year, my parents and I decided to start the process of finding a school. At the same time, I was graduating high school. I had difficulty managing my basketball schedule and my school schedule, but I made it through. Right after graduation in Italy, I went to Sunrise Christian Academy, a prep-school in Kansas. It was a tough year for me as I was away from my family and friends in a place that was in the middle of nowhere. Also,  I had to take some time to learn better English. It was a really helpful year for me though, because I matured a lot and I improved my confidence in myself.

Playing college basketball becomes reality

Now the fun part of my journey starts. I was at the end of my prep-school season, and I decided to go back to Denver, Colorado, where my brother, Danilo, was playing for the Nuggets at the time. They were in the offseason so I decided to work out with the team. I was by far not the best player, but it helped me a lot. At the same time, I was playing pick-up games at LifeTime Fitness in Denver when one day this guy came up to me and asked if I was looking to play in college.

In my thick Italian accent, I answered, “Yes, of course.”

The next day I received a message from Coach Tom Webb from Rochester College. He was the assistant coach at the time, and he asked me to come to Michigan for a visit and a pick-up game with the guys.

Great! The American dream is getting closer and closer!

My dad and I took a flight to Michigan and stayed there for the next three days. While there, I played with the guys and Coach Klint Pleasant told me that he wanted me on the team. I was so excited! Every single Italian basketball player of my age has the dream to play in the USA, and I just got asked to play for a college team. After my visit, I went back to Denver, and a week later, I signed with Rochester College.

Life at RC

I am now in my second year at Rochester College, where my double major and basketball commitment are keeping me busy. I’m really enjoying my college life and am excited to play this season after spending last season redshirted, which means I sat out my first year so that I could gain experience and extend my eligibility. I want to thank my parents and my friends who are always with me, and a special thanks to Coach Pleasant and the coaching staff who gave me this opportunity.