Alessandro Tanzi, a fourth-year environmental management student from Milan, Italy isn’t someone you want to play against in a game of one-on-one basketball—because you’ll lose. The humble and intelligent UTM Eagles basketball captain practices his craft religiously in the RAWC, showcasing his skills to the students that show up to open court shoot-around.

Tanzi, a prolific shooting guard, has led UTM men’s division 1 team to a 4-1 record, setting his sights on winning a championship this U of T extramural season. “I believe that we are ready to compete. We have a team that is made up of guards primarily, but through great coaching and leadership, we can achieve big things,” says Tanzi.

Tanzi takes his captaincy seriously, and understands that all great teams set themselves apart from the competition because of captains’ strong leadership abilities. “I’ve always respected my leaders growing up. Being granted the opportunity of being team captain shows me that I need to step up and take on the responsibility,” says Tanzi. “I need to make sure that all my teammates understand what is happening on the court and how it should be accomplished. I classify myself as someone that knows the game well, someone that is ready to react to any given situation.”

Tanzi possesses double consciousness when it comes to the strategy and physical demands of the game. Growing up in Italy and spending his summers there playing in a professional development league in the third division, Tanzi surrounds himself with the Italian strategy. He surrounds himself with the Canadian and American style of play. His unique knowledge can only help his team achieve great feats. “My hometown has a couple of teams that are competitive and well-rounded,” says Tanzi. “The talent is not high, but they are extremely meticulous on techniques and plays. The main difference can be noticed on fundamentals. Basketball fundamentals are practiced on every day, while here in Canada, I feel like athletic development is focused on a lot more.”

Tanzi hasn’t had the easiest ride to get where he is today. Two years ago he suffered a torn ACL, which is known to be a career-ending injury in the basketball community. He was lucky enough to get great medical attention. Coupling his treatment with his high motivation to rehabilitate, he’s finally back to being healthy. “I was without basketball for about six months, but had to wear a brace for the four months following that break. The brace was so restricting, and made me better understand what a player can do with what he has available,” says Tanzi. “With my brace, I was able to better understand ball movement as well as court positioning, two key factors in a good offence. At first, following my surgery, I thought I wouldn’t be able to come back and compete the same, but in a way, I think my game improved.”

Tanzi overcame an ACL injury from two years ago.
Tanzi overcame an ACL injury from two years ago.

Tanzi learned many lessons away from the court, and was unable to be the athletic version of himself that he knew he could be. But he used this experience as an intangible lesson on how great things don’t always come so easy. “My biggest motivation was my will to come back and compete as if nothing ever happened,” he says. “In a way, I wanted to show myself that obstacles can be overcome by hard work, and in a way, I believe I was able to fulfill that.”

Tanzi overcame his shortcomings, and seems to be the perfect representative for a team competing for a championship this winter.

Not only is he thankful to play a sport that he loves, but he’s also thankful to be at UTM. “I am very lucky to be an international student here outside of my country,” he says.

Going forward, Tanzi has the tough decision to figure out in which country he wants to start his life. He has a wealth of knowledge of the world around him and wants to choose a place that’ll surely accept him like Canada has. Hopefully, wherever he ends up, he’ll be able to lead a basketball team as he has done here.