At times during the 2012-13 Ohio State basketball season, Amedeo Della Valle wasn’t sure if being in Columbus — more than 4,400 miles from his hometown of Alba, Italy — was for him.
“I’m here by myself,” Della Valle said at OSU Media Day Oct. 10. “I don’t have family with me, so it’s not the easiest thing to do.”
The sophomore sharpshooter spent the summer back home, earning Most Valuable Player honors during the U20 European Championship after averaging 13.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game while playing with his Italian team. Della Valle said although his lack of playing time last season was tough, he decided to come back because of assurances from the coaching staff and the relationship he has with his teammates, who he calls his “best friends.”
“Coach (Thad) Matta’s a great coach, not just as a coach, as a person (too), and coach (Chris) Jent was here too, so sometimes when I wasn’t playing, I used to talk to them and be like, ‘What am I doing wrong?’” Della Valle said at Media Day. “They would tell me, ‘It’s not just about being ready today. We know what kind of player you can be, so just work hard on your game.’”
Jent has since joined the Sacramento Kings of the NBA, but Della Valle continued to work hard in the offseason. It paid off, as he logged 21 minutes in OSU’s 93-63 exhibition victory over Walsh Sunday, totaling 13 points.
“I like his confidence. Amedeo is a young man who cares about the welfare of the team,” Matta said after the win. “He wants to do everything he can do to help this team win; I put that in higher regard than a lot of things that happen.”
The 6-foot-5-inch 190 pound sophomore has never been shy about taking his shot when it is there, hoisting 26 3-pointers last season while only averaging 7.2 minutes per game. Spending the majority of his time toward the end of the bench during his freshman year was because of one simple thing.
“Definitely defense,” Della Valle said at Media Day. “Definitely wasn’t surprised that defense was something I had to work on, because I’ve never been a great defender my whole life. You just look at your teammates and what they do, and how they do it, and you just try to see yourself doing that.”
His defense might have improved, but the Buckeyes could need Della Valle’s help offensively more than they think as they try to replace 2012-13 Big Ten leading scorer Deshaun Thomas, who left following the 2012 season for the NBA.
Junior forward LaQuinton Ross said he thinks Della Valle can certainly be that guy because of how he’s always been able to score.
“I would say Amedeo has probably been one of the most consistent guys since he’s been here as far as scoring the ball,” Ross said at Media Day. “What he did overseas this year with his Italian League was incredible … I think he’s one of the best scorers.”
Della Valle made three of the Buckeyes’ four 3-pointers in Sunday’s win, something Matta said he was pleased with, even though shooting from the behind the arc might not be what the team is looking for a lot this year.
“Obviously shooting the ball is very, very important to us in terms of percentage and that sort of thing,” Matta said. “Fortunately for us, (Amedeo) knocked down some threes. But we didn’t attempt a lot of them, which is good.”
The Italian, though, said going away from the outside shot is not necessarily the team’s mindset.
“I feel like that’s not the plan, or something we are focused on. I think we are focused on running the right play, and taking the right shots,” Della Valle said Sunday. “You don’t want to take a forced three — I mean the threes that I shot, I was open, so I had to take those shots.”
At Media Day, Matta said replacing Thomas is going to be a team effort this season. That was clear in the win against Walsh, as Della Valle was one of five players who scored in double figures.
“I don’t think we necessarily need somebody that shoots 20 shots per game or averages 30 points,” Della Valle said. “But I feel like we have enough scorers, enough players to make plays.”
Della Valle believes he is one of those players, and said he is excited to be on the court more this winter after a “fun” first year as a Buckeye.
“I’m lucky,” Della Valle said at Media Day. “It was definitely fun, and it was definitely a good freshman year. It helped me a lot. I feel like if I would have played more, I would have never realized what I need to work on more, and I would have never been motivated like I was last year to push myself.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to open their regular season Saturday at the Schottenstein Center against Morgan State at noon.