The 24-year-old of the Bucks on Christmas day set foot on the court after 7 months of absence. “Being outside is very hard”
When Mike Budenholzer told him it was his turn, Donte DiVincenzo took a virtual journey back in time. He went back to when he was a freshman, when he first set foot in the NBA. “I had butterflies in my stomach, it took me a while to really realize where I was and what I was doing”. It was on the floor of the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on Christmas day. And he was returning as a basketball player after a 7 month ordeal.
The world of the DiVincenzo player had stopped on May 27, 2021, game-3 of the playoff first round match against Miami. Ankle injury and a 6-month break, the beginning of the re-education spent watching his teammates make their way in the playoffs up to the extraordinary NBA title. The one Donte had worked for years to chase. “Being out was very hard: even if you are around the team, you live in a sort of parallel world, in which you have different rhythms than your teammates – he says now that the nightmare behind you -. I am an agonist and I need a goal to motivate myself to the maximum. But I also needed mental support. To overcome such a thing you need around people you trust, with whom you can speak openly. My points of support in basketball are George Hill, Jeff Teague and Eric Bledose: they are the ones I know I can count on, the ones I called on the most difficult days. And then there is my family, having their constant support was fundamental for me ”.
24-year-old DiVincenzo, whose passport status for the Italian national team remains suspended, started 2021-22 knowing he would have to stay out for a long time. “We met with the doctors in September: they explained to me what I should have done, the stages to get to play. After they did it, I went to coach Bud and told him I would be back in December: I need a goal, by giving me a date I had found it ”. What Donte didn’t tell his technician is that he didn’t just have a month in mind for his return, but even one day: December 25th. “When they told me I could play on the 15th I was really happy, but then Covid got in the way.” Donte still remembers the scene: “I was at home on the 14th, sitting on the sofa, when the phone rang. For some strange reason, I felt I didn’t want to answer. In the end I did: as soon as the guy started talking he said sorry and then I understood ”. He spent the ten days of quarantine as an asymptomatic, not locked in the basement watching films like Giannis Antetokounmpo but doing what he could to be ready to return to the field. “I trained as best I could, but without being able to set foot in a gym it was more complicated. So much so that when I set foot on the court on Saturday and picked up the ball to shoot, everything seemed different to me ”.
In the end, DiVincenzo returned when he had imagined: at Christmas. When his fans saw him get off the bench, they jumped to their feet and started clapping, calling his name. “I was too excited, I didn’t even notice – he said -. But my father was at the game: when we met later he told me how beautiful that standing ovation was. Considering what I have been through, it was great to find out how much the fans are waiting for me. On the pitch I didn’t understand anything: I didn’t know who I was playing with, what I had to do, but I let my instincts take over. I’m happy to be back, grateful to finally be healthy ”. Even happier that, to celebrate his return, Milwaukee beat Boston with a sensational comeback. Happy, after a day of rest, that he was finally able to train with his teammates without feeling dead tired: “I worked hard to be physically ready, I kept myself ready even during Covid: now I feel healthy and that’s all I can ask for “.
Now with the toughest challenge of his career behind him, DiVincenzo can prepare for the next one: helping Milwaukee win the title again. “You would expect to find more relaxed teammates, after what they did last year, but it didn’t happen here – he says -: as a group we have the same desire and determination as before, but at the same time we know very well that we don’t we have to prove today that we are the champions, that we have to use the regular season to build the right habits for the playoffs. But I have a completely different attitude: I didn’t play the Finals due to injury and I’m more focused than before. I wanted to come back, and now that I have, I want to work to keep improving ”. Donte does not say it, but his goal is clear: to work to win, to live that experience at the Finals that the injury took away from him.
December 27, 2021 (change December 27, 2021 | 20:23)
© REPRODUCTION RESERVED
We wish to say thanks to the writer of this post for this outstanding material
DiVincenzo talks about the return: “I didn’t understand anything on the pitch, but now …”