Ohio State men's basketball: Freshman looks for stronger results
Sharp-shooting Della Valle is working on bulking up
Ohio State freshman Amedeo Della Valle calls the physicality of the college game the biggest transition from playing in Europe.
On the morning before Christmas, while many of his teammates might have been rushing to stores for 11th-hour gift purchases, Amedeo Della Valle was headed elsewhere.
“Heading to the gym,” he messaged to his followers on Twitter.
Most of the players on the Ohio State men’s basketball team headed home for the holiday after the loss to Kansas on Saturday and returned to campus yesterday for practice. Or they were scheduled to, anyway. The winter storm that socked central Ohio with snow and ice stranded at least two, LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson, as well as video coordinator Greg Paulus at distant airports, a team spokesman said.
There was no going home to Italy for Della Valle. He stayed in Columbus, and his parents came here to be with him.
“It’s been a long time since I was able to spend a lot of time with my family,” Della Valle said. “The college life is no joke. You’ve got to stay focused on the books all the time because I want to get a degree, also, and play basketball, so I don’t really have that much free time.
“When they came here this summer, we weren’t able to have such a great time like we used to have in (Las) Vegas because I had a lot of homework and everything. So I want them back right now.”
Della Valle, a 6-foot-5 guard, has been at Ohio State since June, when he enrolled for summer semester. He had returned to Italy for a few weeks before that after graduating from Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., a Las Vegas suburb.
He played at the prep school for one season after hitting the radar of college recruiters in 2011, when he led Italy’s 18-and-under national team in scoring during the European championships in Poland. He shot 54 percent from the field and made half of his three-point attempts during the tournament.
Such numbers might seem to qualify Della Valle as an antidote for what ailed the Buckeyes in their two losses this season. They shot 32.3 percent overall and 26.9 percent from behind the arc against Duke and Kansas.
But don’t expect him to come to their rescue when the Big Ten season begins next week, after a final nonconference tuneup against Chicago State on Tuesday. The 175-pound freshman said the “physicality” of the college game has been his biggest adjustment.
“It is so different from high school, and even more different from European basketball,” Della Valle said. “I never lifted weights before college. I love spending time in the weight room because it’s getting me better.”
The Buckeyes’ only freshman, he spends more time in the weight room than his teammates, even on game days, because he plays less than most. He has played in six of the 11 games and averaged 8.5 minutes.
“I think that’s probably been his biggest adjustment, the strength and the physicality of practice, just drill after drill after drill after drill,” coach Thad Matta said. “He’s very smart in knowing what he needs, and I give him credit, he’s a lot tougher than he may appear on the surface. He just gets up and keeps going after guys.”
Della Valle’s slight build, his mop of curly black hair and the thick-rimmed glasses he wears off the court have made him a home-crowd favorite when he enters games, typically near the end. He has attempted 12 threes in his six appearances and has made four.
It could be a while, and he knows it, before he becomes more than a novelty.
“The great point (Matta preaches) is about getting better every day,” Della Valle said, “so maybe it’s not being ready today but being ready next year, or the year after.”