VENICE (FIBA U17 World Championship for Women) - Francesca Pan is destined to be a driving force for Italy at the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women but the rising star believes it's the overall health of youth basketball in her homeland which deserves the limelight.
With senior team play-caller Roberto Ricchini having utilised an array of young players at EuroBasket Women 2013 and with the Italian youth teams also performing well, there is plenty to celebrate.
Earlier this month, Ricchini also notably handed a debut to 1996-born sensation Cecilia Zandalasini, a player which Pan played alongside at the last FIBA U17 World Championship for Women in Amsterdam in 2012.
"I think Cecilia is a phenomenon," stated Pan in the wake of her inclusion.
"I also hope to one day get to this level and I hope I can soon get called to play with the senior national team, because getting there is one of my main goals.
"Beyond Cecilia (who I don't think is comparable to other players of her age), I think there are many other young players with great qualities in Italy.
"The results of the Italian youth national teams during the last few years are a demonstration of this and I think Serie A clubs should believe in these young players even more and let them play more minutes," added Pan.
As well as playing alongside Zandalasini in the Netherlands two years ago, Pan also played with another outstanding young talent in Elisa Penna, who is now a club colleague.
"I know Elisa very well, because we both play with Reyer Venezia and I have a wonderful friendship with her," she revealed.
"She's an unselfish girl, in addition to being a great player and I really do hope she will achieve all the goals she deserves in her career."
The number of talented youngsters in Italy is an exciting dynamic and Pan is eager to continue this trend by posting her usual all-action contributions next month - as well as drawing on her experiences from 2012.
She stated: "For everyone including me, my presence at the last FIBA U17 World Championship was a surprise because I was an U15 player.
"However, being the youngest player on my team was always an incentive to give more and to try and push my coach to let me play.
"I remember I didn't play in the opening game against Canada, but then after starting the match against Mali, the coach always sent me onto the floor and it was absolutely great.
"In Amsterdam we were a very united and close team both on and off the court.
"I had chance to play against stronger national teams from all over the world and I remember the competition with great emotion.
"It was an unforgettable experience in every aspect and I will remember it for a lifetime."
Looking ahead, Pan believes there's reason to be optimistic.
"I think the Italian team that will play in this next FIBA World Championship in Czech Republic is also very good.
“Although I don't think I can be considered as the only leader - I think everyone will be able to do something for the team.
"I will of course try to do my best as I always do and certainly I will try to take on more responsibility compared to the last tournament."
In addition to impressing with her basketball skills in Pilsen and Klatovy, you can also expect Pan to be sat glued watching sport of some kind or other between both games and practice sessions.
"Yes, I love all sports," smiled Pan, who turned 17 on Tuesday.
"In my house we watch absolutely everything, including skiing, rugby and soccer.
"I'm an AC Milan supporter," she concluded with pride.
Pan and her Italian team-mates will play against Brazil, Egypt and Spain in Group B.
photos Janos Schmidt
photos Janos Schmidt