Lorenzo Donadio is unfazed, unafraid and undeterred: he just wants to play basketball
The sophomore guard from Italy looks to soar in his second season as an Eagle
Most freshmen athletes have the typical first-year jitters adjusting to the pace and style of a college basketball game, but American University sophomore guard Lorenzo Donadio had to adjust during a once-in-a-century pandemic.
The entire experience was atypical, Donadio said.
“Last season was the hardest one that I’ve ever had,” Donadio said. “We didn't have a preseason, so it made it hard to learn how to move or play the way coach [Brennan] wants.”
Donadio lived alone in an apartment his freshman year due to COVID-19 safety protocols. While Donadio said his teammates supported him and helped integrate him into the team, the season was still a struggle.
“Normally, you get a whole full summer to acclimate yourself in the full preseason, and 11 preseason games before you go into league play. But, last year they were isolated for a month … and we didn't practice until November 29,” head coach Mike Brennan said. “So I give all the young guys credit for … competing under difficult circumstances, in very, very new circumstances.”
Donadio performed well in his first season as an Eagle, despite the specter of a pandemic. The Rome, Italy native averaged less than two points per game, played in all ten games, one of two freshmen to do so, and was one of only five Eagles to appear in all ten games.
“He competed, which I liked the most,” Brennan said. “He was out there, and he wasn't a deer in the headlights kind of freshmen who are shocked by the speed and aggression.”
Donadio’s competitive fervor was on full display again this summer, when he represented his country as part of Italy’s junior national team in the 2021 FIBA U20 European Championship, his third time playing for his country in his young career.
Donadio said that his biggest strength as a player is his knowledge of the game and his ability to drive to the rim and score. Donadio also said that there are still plenty of areas that he needs to improve.
“I'm trying to improve my dribble, especially with my left hand,” Donadio said. “And of course always try to improve your shot.”
The 6’4 guard learned to play the game at the highest levels of competition in Europe. Donadio said his father got him interested in basketball. Donadio’s dad played too, and when he was 10 years old, his father talked him into going to local practice.
“The first practice I fell in love with basketball,” Donadio said. “I could feel that it was my sport.”
Donadio quickly mastered the art of basketball, and has played for the Italian national team since 2017. He averaged 9.9 points per game in the 2019 FIBA U18 European Championship, he scored 27 points against Serbia in the same tournament and Donadio finished his junior national team career by scoring 15 points against Albania in the 2021 FIBA U20 European Championship.
The experience playing for Italy’s national team was also beneficial to his career at AU. While the American game was faster and more physical than the European game, Donadio said it didn’t faze him.
Donadio doesn’t seem to be deterred by adversity. In fact, Donadio made his way to AU because he bet on himself.
The Rome native faced a dilemma many international athletes are forced to contend with once their high school athletic careers ended. Donadio could either play professional basketball in Europe or pursue a degree in business at a university, but he couldn’t do both. Donadio said he wasn’t interested in being forced to choose either, and when he was 17 he turned to the new world to continue playing basketball.
“College in America was the best option for me to study at a higher level school and then basketball at a high level as well,” Donadio said.
The move was a gamble; Donadio said. Donadio had no guarantee he’d be able to continue his career past high school, and he couldn’t speak English.
Despite this, Donadio quickly learned the language, began an impressive career in America. Donadio first played for Admiral Farragut High School in St. Petersburg. He finished his high school career before the onset of the pandemic at Boys Latin just outside of Baltimore, where he was named Baltimore Sun Athlete of the Week in January 2020.
While Donadio’s senior season at Boys Latin wasn’t interrupted by the pandemic, it made recruiting difficult. Donadio said he was recruited on video calls, but despite the pandemic complicating the process, Donadio said he received an offer to play Division I from Howard University.
Unsure if Howard was a good fit, Donadio signed with AU in May 2020. Brennan said that associate head coach Scott Greenman discovered Donadio.
“Everyone we talked to surrounding him just spoke highly of his character, what kind of kid he was, kind of student, what kind of hard worker,” Brennan said. “He definitely fits with what we're looking for here.”
While Donadio doesn’t know how the season will go, especially with the pandemic persisting, he is optimistic about the 2021-2022 season.
“This year, I can already see the difference to have a preseason than last year,” Donadio said. “So for sure, this year is gonna be better.”