Last Tuesday, Toronto Raptor Andrea Bargnani made a visit to UTM. The seven-foot Toronto Raptors centre towered over everyone before seating himself at the front of the packed Davis Building lecture hall. Joined by his striking professional volleyball player girlfriend Nabila and his father Roberto, the smiling Bargnani seemed very comfortable visiting UTM. His younger brother Enrico is also a business student at U of T Rotman.
Bargnani, nicknamed “Il Mago” (Italian for “The Magician”), sat in front of the starstruck UTM crowd, for an event that included a question-and-answer session hosted by the Department of Language Studies and the Italian Club of Erindale. Deep Saini, principal of UTM and vice-president of U of T, was in attendance and seemed to enjoy himself.
Currently nursing a calf strain, Bargnani took his appearance in front of the at-capacity crowd in room 2080 as an opportunity to interact with his diverse UTM fanbase. He fielded questions from UTM students regarding his injury and potential return, his teammates and his opponents, and even about Primo pasta, which he famously endorses.
A review of notable questions and answers:
Outside of your Raptors teammates, which player would you most want to play with?
There are so many veteran players in the league: there’s Kobe (Bryant), there’s LeBron (James), there’s Dwight Howard—there’s so many of them.
When are you coming back?
To U of T? Whenever you’ll have me! [Laughs] No, but I’ll be back out there soon. I have a few injuries, but I’ll be back soon.
Which individual player gives you the hardest time on defence?
Tim Duncan in my first year. It’s always Tim Duncan—he’s always hard to guard. There’s Zach Randolph from the Memphis Grizzlies. Dirk (Nowitzki) too.
What’s your favourite NBA moment that you have been a part of?
We haven’t really won, so I’m sure the best one is yet to come, but my first year—when we won the Atlantic Division championship—that was my favourite memory so far.
Who was your favourite player when you were growing up?
I would say (Manu) Ginóbili, because he used to play in Italy, so I always watched him growing up.
What do you personally think of Jeremy Lin?
I think it’s a great story, and it’s really good for basketball right now—and stories like that are good for the NBA.
How has living in Toronto changed your life?
I love big cities, so the transition from Italy was pretty easy for me. I loved Toronto from my first year.
How did you get into the NBA?
The draft. [Laughs]
What is a regular week like for you?
There is no “regular” week; sometimes we even play five times in seven days. So there’s no weekly schedule. We’re in the gym every day, even when we don’t have a game we’re in the gym. On the days where there are games, we go in the morning and shoot around.
How long have you been playing basketball?
I’ve been playing since I was six. My mother and father always wanted me to play sports. I have always been interested in it and now I’m in love with it.
What’s the significance of the number seven?
My uncle used to wear #7—the brother of my mother. I love #7; it’s my lucky number.
Did you play soccer as kid?
I played soccer as kid, in school.
Were you any good?
No, no. [Laughs] That’s why I play basketball.
What’s your favourite soccer team?
Lazio, but I don’t really follow soccer.
Do you watch any other Toronto sports or follow any athletes?
I like to go to the games, but I don’t follow any. I like the soccer games, and I was at the hockey game last week. I like the Leaf games.
Who are the most inspirational figures in your life?
My family: my mother and my father.
Which players on the team are you closest to?
Everybody. We’re a close team. I enjoy being around everyone: Jose (Calderon), Demar (DeRozan)… everybody.
I have you on my fantasy basketball team. Somebody proposed a trade for you. What will you say to not make me do that trade?
I would say you are the GM, I’m just the player.
Who do you think is better, LeBron or Dwayne (Wade)?
Why does that matter? They play on the same team now.
Do you actually eat Primo?
[Laughs] That’s a good question…