From Italy to the Falls: Lazzarotto fits in at Hirschi High School

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From Italy to the Falls: Lazzarotto fits in at Hirschi High School

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Activate your digital access.From Italy to the Falls: Lazzarotto fits in at Hirschi High School

Pietro Lazzarotto didn't know what kind of situation he was coming into when he signed up to play basketball with the Hirschi Huskies.

The senior foreign exchange student from Italy just wanted to play on an American high school basketball team so he could continue playing the sport in college.

Much to his surprise, he joined one of the top Class 4A teams in the state. A team currently ranked No. 7 with a 24-8 record and is playing for a bid to the Region I-4A Tournament when it meets No. 9 Abilene Wylie (31-3) in the regional quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Mineral Wells.

Lazzarotto, a 6-foot-7 forward, isn't just sitting the bench for the Huskies, either. He's playing quality minutes as a fix ture of coach Donald Hedge's rotation.

“This is what I was wanting to have and it's what I am having,” Lazzarotto said. “This is a good team. I'm really happy to be part of a team that plays good basketball.”

And the Huskies are just as happy to have Lazzarotto.

“He really fit in on this team,” Hedge said. “He was a perfect match to come in. You would think he's been knowing these guys forever the way he fit in.”

Lazzarotto came to Hirschi from Bassano Del Grappa, a town of around 43,000 people located in northern Italy's Veneto region â€" about a 1 ½-hour drive from Venice.

He chose Wichita Falls because his older sister, Greta, was already here as the No. 3 women's tennis player for Midwestern State. Greta was also an exchange student, but attended Murray County High School in Chatsworth, Georgia.

“We spend time together when we can. She comes to my games when they're in town,” Lazzarotto s aid. “I go to see her when I can. I'm looking forward to seeing her at MSU now since March is the main tennis season.

“If I need her, then she's here. She can help me a lot. That was a big part because my parents in Italy (Apolo and Raffaella Lazzarotto) they lost both their children. They wanted us to be close so that we would have each other.”

Living with his host parents, Dave and Debby Blount, Lazzarotto chose Hirschi because of its International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

“I know I also have to have good grades to play basketball in college,” Lazzarotto said. “There are IB classes that are kind of tough. In Italy we have very good high school program. The IB classes are really close to that level, but the regular classes are a little easier here.”

Getting the chance to join a talented basketball team was just icing on the cake, although the sport was a primary reason for coming to America in the first place.

“My dream is to play basketball in college,” Lazzarotto said. “I had to come here for learning English and about this beautiful country. I'm also became independent because I left my family. This is my goal.”

Lazzarotto first had to prove he deserved a chance to play with the Huskies. It didn't take him long to make a positive impression on Hedge.

“When I heard he was coming, I heard rumors that he was 6-9, 6-10, 6-11, he's going to be an NBA all-star. You know I didn't know what to think. I said when he shows up then we'll see,” Hedge said. “I didn't even think he was coming. When he showed up and I met him, I looked in his eyes and I could tell he wanted to be coached. He wanted to be coached hard to get better.

“He's so skilled to be 6-7. He's still learning and adjusting to the American game, but he's gotten better every night, every practice, every game. He's such a coachable kid and I'm tough on him, too . And the things I'm tough on him about he's trying to improve. He's working before practice and after practice.

"He's been a great addition. To bring a 6-7 guy off the bench with that skill who can stretch the defense and then score around the basket that's a nice addition to have.”

The first challenge for Lazzarotto was learning the language. He spoke little English when he arrived at Hirschi and needed time to adjust to his new coaches teammates.

“I didn't speak English so I couldn't understand the coaches or my teammates," Lazzarotto said. "Now I can understand them and say what I want. I've started to get to know my teammates and relate to who they are. I understand them really good.

“I had to bring myself inside a new team. I arrived here and the guys were already a pretty tight group. It was really tough for me to get inside this team, this family. I think now with help of coach and all this time together, it's gone really well and now I'm part of this family, too.”

Lazzarotto is typically the first or second player off the bench for the Huskies. He's averaging 3.9 points and 3.1 rebounds on the season, but bumped those marks up to 5.6 points and 4.8 rebounds during District 6-4A play. He's had to develop different parts of his game to earn the playing time he's received.

“Here I'm playing outside and also inside. In Italy, I'm tall, but I'm not that tall for playing inside,” Lazzarotto said. “I was more playing outside. I've had to adjust my position on the court because here I'm the tall guy. I have to play inside, but I would prefer to play outside.”

Lazzarotto has learned bang with the big boys inside, though. He had multiple offensive rebounds and a couple putbacks in the Huskies' area-round victory against Stephenville on Saturday.

“We told him before he leaves he's goi ng to be Linwood tough,” Hedge joked. “He's getting close. He made some tough plays (Saturday), just hustle, effort, hard plays. That's the type of effort we talk about with him. He's so skilled and so dynamic offensively, but man go get me some tough plays, some hard plays.

“It's good to see him sprinting the floor, getting some tough rebounds, some tough putbacks. He's so long in there he can make it tough on the guys to score around him.”

Lazzarotto isn't satisfied, though. He's yet to embark on his ultimate goal, which is playing college basketball. It's another reason he wants to help the Huskies keep winning in the playoffs.

“No, not yet. I would like to,” Lazzarotto said when asked if any colleges had contacted him. “For me to reach my goal, it helps if we go really far in the playoffs. I will do any thing the team needs for this to happen.”

GAMENIGHT: The game will be broadcast o n ESPN 95.5 FM. Follow @Andy_Newberry on Twitter for game updates and check for post-game analysis and reaction.

Source: Google News Italy | Netizen 24 Italy

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