Credit: Giuseppe Cottini/Getty Images
Credit Giuseppe Cottini/Getty Images

Memory works in strange ways. Sometimes we can remember very futile details that happened years ago, while we struggle to remember stuff that happened the week before. Even in basketball, especially nowadays, memory can be really short-term.

Alessandro Gentile

Alessandro  Gentile
Position: SF
Age: 29
Height: 200 cm
Weight: 103 kg
Birth place: Italy

Remembering the scenario of 8-10 years ago might be really difficult, such is our focus on today and on what might happen in the incoming future. 

So we will not blame those who don't remember how promising and dominant Alessandro Gentile was only a few years ago. The Italian wing, now 29, was hands down one of the best players of the Italian Serie A and probably one of the best under-25 players in the entire European environment. 

He won his first Italian league title in the 2013-14 season with Olimpia Milan when he was only 21-year-old. Before the beginning of that season, he was also named captain of the team, becoming the youngest team captain in the history of Olimpia Milan.

That same season, Gentile played a fantastic game in EuroLeague against Barcelona, scoring 24 points. That match is still something that Milan fans cherish as one of the brightest memories in the club's recent history. 

During Luca Banchi's tenure as head coach of Milan (from 2013 to 2015), Gentile was one of the most exciting and dominant players around. He was also selected by the Houston Rockets in the 2014 NBA Draft with 53rd pick overall.

During the 2015 EuroBasket, in which Italy was eliminated by Lithuania in the quarter-finals of the competition, Gentile averaged 16.8 points per game and recorded his career-high with the national team posting 27 points against Israel. 

With coach Jasmin Repesa, at only 23, Gentile won the second Italian league title of his career in 2016. But issues and cracks in his relationship with Milan started to appear. Already in the 2015-16 season, Gentile's minutes started to go down, as Repesa didn't consider him as crucial as he was under coach Banchi.

After winning the Italian league, Gentile stated that he wanted to go to the NBA to play for the Rockets under coach Mike D'Antoni. That was the beginning of the end of Gentile's tenure in Milan. 

During the offseason, his move to the Rockets looked almost done, but it didn't materialize in the end. Milan decided to punish the player for his statements after the final and stripped his captaincy of the team. Gentile began the season with Milan, but he was loaned to Panathinaikos in December. 

The transfer to the Greek powerhouse was supposed to give energy and motivation to Gentile. His father, Nando, a legend of Italian basketball, had played for several seasons with Panathinaikos and had also won a EuroLeague title with the Greek club.

For Alessandro, though, the experience in Greece, the country where he had started playing basketball when his father was playing with Panathinaikos, ended up being almost a disaster. He only stayed with Panathinaikos for three months, and the local media often criticized him for staying out until late at night. 

He then finished the season with Hapoel Jerusalem under coach Simone Pianigiani. He won the domestic title with the Israeli side, but the rumors about his off-court issues continued, casting doubts on his future at the highest levels. 

Fast forward to the current days, Gentile is now playing for Pallacanestro Varese after spending last season in Spain with Estudiantes. In the past few months, the Italian wing has opened up about his struggles with anxiety and spread awareness about mental health.

First, through his Instagram profile, then with interviews. On September 13, Gentile posted a picture on his Instagram profile which included the following caption:

"Living with anxiety is like being followed by a voice. It knows all your insecurities and weaknesses and uses them against you". It was the first time that the Italian player had spoken publicly about these issues. 

In a recent interview with 'Il Corriere della Sera,' Gentile explained that he had been dealing with these issues for quite some time. Still, only last season, when he was playing with Estudiantes, he realized that he needed to look for professional help. 

"I had these issues for a while, but I hid them. But with time, it became much more difficult to deal with them, I reached a point in which I was no longer able to control the situation. It happened last year after I tested positive for Covid: fear and isolation created negative scenarios", Gentile said. 

Gentile left Estudiantes in April. He had recovered from Covid, but the side effects of the virus left him with a lack of conditioning, but it wasn't only that.

Gentile realized that he needed time to work on himself and start focusing on his mental issues, which led to the decision to parting ways with Estudiantes while the season was still ongoing. The Spanish side, unfortunately, ended up being relegated. 

Dealing with mental health, it's a delicate process. These issues don't disappear in a couple of months, and there aren't specific rules. The healing process is different for every single person, as Gentile explained. 

"The rule is that there are no rules," Gentile said to Il Corriere della Sera. "At the beginning, my parents and my brother Stefano (Stefano Gentile is also a basketball player and currently plays for Dinamo Sassari, the two had played together a few years ago with Virtus Bologna) helped me, after I started to see a psychiatrist, and after that a psychologist. I keep working with her, sharing fears and sufferings: I realized that, as human beings, we're not machines". 

Gentile has always had a strong personality, he was never bothered by the critics from the outside, but clearly, it was a slow process to realize that the real issue might have come from the inside.

He has shown bravery, talking publicly about his issues. Mental health has often been considered a stigma in professional sports, something you don't really talk about because it might be too embarrassing or just because people might not understand why a professional player shouldn't be happy with the life that he has. 

Luckily, there's been more openness about mental health issues in the basketball world in recent years. NBA players like Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan have opened up about their struggles with anxiety and depression, going public and asking others who have struggled to look for help. The more awareness there's on mental health, the better. 

Gentile's career might not have peaked as high as many had expected, but, as he continues his journey in basketball, in admitting his issues and asking for help has achieved a more important goal: finding a better balance in his life and helping other people to look for help when they're dealing with the same demons that he's fighting.

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2022-01-10
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Akk
Dude wasted his big talent for being arogant
2022-01-03
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