A star in Italy’s top basketball league, Sara Bocchetti heart is set on one day competing in the WNBA.
For Italian basketball star Sara Bocchetti, it was love at first sight, when she was introduced to the sport as a baby, before she could even walk.
“My brother was given a basket for his birthday. Since I saw that basket, I started to hear its call. I had to make a basket, even if I wasn’t walking yet!” Bocchetti says.
The 5-foot-9-inch guard plays for Use Scotti Rosa Empoli in the Serie A1, the top basketball league in Italy. Two seasons ago, she was the top scorer in the national championship, and she’s also played with the Italian national team.
Born in Naples, the now-28-year-old started playing basketball with her brother at age 4 and continued throughout her youth. She was good at soccer, cyclocross, swimming and tennis, but basketball always had her heart.
At one point as a child, Bocchetti broke her arm in a bad fall, so her mother enrolled her in dance classes. After what she describes as “two long years,” she finally managed to get back to basketball.
Twice, Bocchetti was on teams that won the Italian youth championship. She also was on a team that won the Euroleague youth championship in Russia, where she was named best guard.
Bocchetti says she has two regrets in her basketball career: The first was not accepting a Russian team’s offer when she was 14, and the second was dropping out of college in the United States to play for her hometown team.
Bocchetti forged ahead and now has two undergraduate degrees: one in sports science and one in sports and physical activity sciences and management, both from the University of Naples “Parthenope.” She also has an MBA in sports law and management.
“In the end, I know that if you strongly believe in something, that thing will come to you anyway,” she says. “There is no time for regrets!”
Bocchetti says it has always been her dream to play in the WNBA. She entered her name in the draft this year and was not selected, so she will persevere. “I’m ready, and I’m sure I can do well,” she says. “I believe it. I’ve always believed it.”
The biggest difference between European and American basketball is that the former is more technical, while the latter focuses more on showmanship, Bocchetti explains.
Italian basketball — and European basketball in general — tries to follow the rules more strictly, she says, while in the United States, fouls and violations like traveling are often not called.
“If you want to see ‘clean’ basketball, I recommend a European basketball game,” Bocchetti says. “If you prefer dunks, skills, crossovers and entertainment, the United States has the best stage in the world.”
“They are different,” she adds, “but in both styles, you can find the magic.”
In Europe, each quarter consists of 10 minutes, compared to 12 minutes in the United States. That’s why European teams rarely score more than 100 points per game, which is more common in the United States, Bocchetti says.
There are also differences in how fans treat the game, according to Bocchetti. In the United States, “the players are respected and the fans are incredible. I also love how the teams are so united and how every single player supports a teammate.”
Her courage is her greatest strength, Bocchetti notes, along with her ability to shoot three-pointers, execute the “step-back” move and play defense. “My instinct is the key.”
Her weakness is that she runs all the time on the court, even when there is no real reason for it, she admits.
Bocchetti says she thoroughly enjoys the pregame moments. “The feelings you feel and the energy I have every time I enter on the court … It makes me feel who I really am — and it’s amazing.”
One day, when her playing career is over, she hopes to put her graduate degree into practice and become a basketball manager.
The above appears in the July 2022 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.