Giovanni De Nicolao cheers on his team before the game starts. Jack Myer/The Paisano

Giovanni De Nicolao is graduating from UTSA this spring, meaning his tenure with the UTSA Roadrunners is coming to an end. De Nicolao is from a city in northern Italy called Padua, which is 5,674 miles away from San Antonio. With his agility on the floor and precision at the hoop, De Nicolao has dazzled spectators for the past three seasons at UTSA and doesn’t plan to stop after graduation.

In last Thursday’s loss at home to Old Dominion University (ODU), De Nicolao put up seven points and five rebounds in 36 minutes. He improved in Sunday’s win over the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB), scoring 10 points and three assists in his last game as a Roadrunner. His best game this season came against Rice University on Jan. 10, when he contributed 19 points and seven assists. However, De Nicolao’s leadership style is more apparent on the court than it is in the statistics. As a point guard, De Nicolao begins with the ball on each play and decides where to send it.

When asked what he likes about playing basketball for UTSA, De Nicolao chose the fans, the atmosphere and his teammates.

“We create such a good group, with the coaches, who did an amazing job putting together great guys, and we just love playing together,” De Nicolao said.

Prior to coming to UTSA, De Nicolao played for the U20 Italian National Team among other semi-pro teams in Italy. He came to UTSA as a freshman in 2016 and made an immediate impact on the team, starting all 33 games that year. De Nicolao says he was drawn to UTSA by the coaches.

“I had other offers, but the coaches here were the best, and I trust them the most. Coach [Steve] Henson, coach [Adam] Hood and coach [Mike] Peck are great people I trusted what they were saying to me, and I made the right choice,” De Nicolao said.

 

De Nicolao celebrates with the team. Jack Myer/The Paisano

 

De Nicolao returned for his sophomore season and kept up the consistency he had shown in the prior season. He led the team with 976 total minutes played, and made it on SportsCenter with a buzzer-beater against Louisiana Tech University, which gave the Roadrunners a 78-76 win. He ended the season with a team-best average of 13.3 points in the ‘Runners four postseason games, as well as making the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll by maintaining a 3.0 GPA.

When asked who inspires him, De Nicolao referred not to a professional athlete, but to his parents.

“My dad stopped playing basketball to help [my brothers and I] grow and teach us basketball. We are three brothers, I am the youngest. My mom too, she was playing volleyball, and they both stopped to coach us and to make us better,” De Nicolao said.

When he isn’t playing basketball, De Nicolao enjoys eating.

“It doesn’t seem like it, but I love it,” De Nicolao said with a laugh. “My favorite restaurant in town is Rudy’s. That’s where I went the first time I came here, to get Texas barbecue.”

De Nicolao had already asserted his position as a leader on the team by the time he began his junior year. He nabbed a season-high 14 rebounds on Jan. 19, against UAB, and doled out 10 assists on Feb. 9, against Florida International University. De Nicolao once again started every game for the Roadrunners, starting 96-96 games played in his career for 2,750 minutes, or almost 46 hours of basketball. He scored 772 points and swiped 333 rebounds in his three-year career as a Roadrunner.

De Nicolao is graduating in May, but his basketball journey is far from over.

“I’m trying to go play pro back home in Europe,” De Nicolao said of his plans after graduation.

Although De Nicolao is saying ‘Ciao’ to UTSA, his charisma and style of play has left an indelible mark on the basketball program and the students who watched him play.

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