Federico Mussini, Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia

Oct 31, 2014 by Frankie Sachs, Eurocupbasketball.com Print
Federico Mussini, Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia
There is a special talent scoring under the radar for Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia this season. He is still in high school, half the age of one of his backcourt mates and through three Eurocup games leads his team in scoring despite being sixth in minutes played. Every time Federico Mussini touches the basketball, he’s making his case as one of the best guards in Italian basketball with the potential to be a whole lot more.

Mussini’s calling card is offense and he has what it takes to be an elite scorer. With lightning-quick speed, great ball-handling skills and deep outside shooting range, Mussini is creating headaches for opposing guards all over Europe. He first made his name on a continental level with a brilliant showing last summer’s European Under-18 Championships in Turkey, which he led in scoring and three-pointers made. Now as an 18-year-old Eurocup rookie, Mussini has averaged 12.3 points on 7-of-16 three-point shooting (43.8%) in just 21 minutes per game. Though those numbers are impressive, it is Mussini’s maturity at such a young age that draws such high hopes for his game.

Mussini grew up with an active lifestyle. ”I started to play basketball when I was five. My mother, who's a passionate fan, registered me at a basketball school, but at the same time I played tennis and went on to swimming. At 12 I decided to play basketball became a member of Reggio Emilia’s youth teams.”

Even at a young age, Mussini had a feel for the kind of player he wanted to be like. “Growing up as a kid I liked Gianmarco Pozzecco for his style of play and also sometimes his crazy behavior on the court. That was what the fans like about him, not just his basketball talent. Now my favorite player is last season’s Euroleague MVP, Sergio Rodriguez of Real Madrid, and his playmaking.”

When asked to describe his own game, Mussini answers with exactly the terms one might use to describe either Pozzecco or Rodriguez: “Mainly I'm a playmaker who can also score. I'm not afraid to take responsibility, I started doing it with the youth teams, and that has helped me a lot. I love to take important decisions and to have an important role.”

One of the aspects of his game that stands out most is his excellent shooting. His shot-making ability has him shooting 55.6% on two-point baskets, and he is Reggio Emilia’s most-accurate three-point shooter. Mussini has also made 50% of his 10 three-point attempts through his first two games in the Italian League this season. However, unlike some of the other sharpshooters draining threes across the continent, Mussini’s marksmanship is more about hard work than natural-born talent.

“I work on [shooting] every single day,” Mussini proudly admits. “I think when I was playing with the under-14 team, I never scored from three, I was a disaster. I could only take pull up jumper, so I started to practice shooting every day, shooting from long distance.”

But simply being proficient from behind the arc was not enough for Mussini, so he took it a step – or several steps – further. “I would shoot from two meters behind the [three-point] line, so the normal three-pointer became easier to me, like a normal shot.”

Mussini was considered a talent to keep an eye on in recent years, but he burst onto the international scene with a breakout performance at the 2014 U-18 European Championships. He led the entire tournament in scoring with 22.6 points per game and shot 42.9% from downtown while making a tournament-high 27 shots from downtown. He was rightfully named to the all-tournament team as well.

After all the buzz surrounding his performances there, surely Mussini had offers to play for larger clubs, but he chose to remain in his hometown and with his boyhood club. “I'm very happy, because this club has trust in its young players, especially in Italian youngsters, but I also get to play with two veterans like Andrea Cinciarini and Rimas Kaukenas, who help me a lot to improve my game and increase my confidence. They help me every day, offering suggestions on every detail of the game.”

As if starting for Reggio Emilia and getting the chance to play an important role alongside such accomplished was not enough, Mussini gets to test himself against other greats on a weekly basis in the Eurocup. “This is a crucial experience, and to play twice in a week gives me the chance to have more minutes and also to gain more confidence. If you have a bad game, you can immediately redo yourself three day later,” a mature Mussini observed. “I think the game in Europe is very tough, more physical, with great athletes and also great players, and this means improving every night you go on the court.”

Among the many reasons Mussini seems destined for great things on the basketball court is because he is so committed off it. Mussini is in his final year of secondary school and he is studying at Liceo Scientifico, the more-demanding, college-preparatory type of high school in Italy. He is conscientious of his schooling needs, so when Reggio Emilia plays Eurocup games at home, Mussini goes to school and meets his team later.

“School is very important to me, I'm attending the last year of Liceo Scientifico, and I have to finish the best way is possible. I cannot skip every week two days of school because of the game, so for this reason I take the train on Wednesday at 15:00 to go to Bologna, take a rest and then play.”

Because Reggio Emilia plays its Eurocup home games in Bologna, Mussini is making a 70-kilometer trip for these games, an effort that shows his dedication to basketball, his club and school. And that dedication is exactly what coaches want to see and make all those around him believe in future greatness.

Just a teenager, Mussini has his feet firmly on the ground. He is committed to hard work on the court and the studies off it that will make him a well-rounded person. Mussini was not tempted to leave his hometown team when his star shined, but instead pleased to play alongside players like Kaukenas, who is twice his age, Cinciarini and Ksistof Lavrinovic, who give the guard a high-level basketball education on a daily basis.

The talent is there. The work ethic too. Veteran leaders to guide him? Check! It would appear that everything a rising star would need around him to take the next step on the road to stardom is in place for Federico Mussini at Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia this season. All that’s left is for basketball fans to sit back and enjoy the ride.