As a young child, Nic Nobili read about his father’s favorite basketball players – European stars Toni Kukoč, Arvydas Sabonis and Sasha Danilović – and marveled as he attended Virtus Bologna’s games in his hometown of Bologna, Italy.
Put simply, he grew up with European baskets.
Through his upbringing, 20-year-old Nobili learned the values that make the European style of basketball unique – an emphasis on passing, distance and team defense. basics. These qualities shaped Nobili’s game as he grew to an athletic 6-foot-10 frame and traveled overseas to play high school basketball in New Jersey and then Ohio.
Now, they’re anchoring him as he begins a new role on the Boston University men’s basketball team.
A freshman, Nobili is a big man with guard skills who can take down the three, play with a tight grip, and hurl accurate passes to open teammates. And like a traditional center, he has a soft grip around the rim and a package of post moves.
“Ever since I was a kid, they taught me how to shoot, how to dribble. It didn’t matter how tall I was,” Nobili said. “I think playing (in) Europe really helped me achieve my vision on the pitch because it’s really organized over there.”
Nobili championed BU over several other middle schools, including Patriot League rivals American University, Lehigh University, Lafayette College, and the College of the Holy Cross.
“Whether it’s turning and batting or throwing it shorter, he can make all kinds of passes,” said Jeff Sparrow, who coached Nobili for a year in SPIRE Academy’s postgraduate program. “I just think that comes from his background abroad (and) how they teach youngsters there. I just think he’s very, very unique in that way.”
Off the pitch, Nobili is quiet and level-headed. On it he is technically sound and versatile.
Mattia Largo, a youth coach at Virtus who worked with Nobili for three years and considers him a ‘son of sport’, helped instill these values in Nobili from a young age.
“Nic’s strengths lie precisely in the fact that, in addition to his size, he has great technique in all game situations,” writes Largo in an e-mail. “It’s a rarity to have players of Nic’s size who are so technically complete in every part of the game.”
Nobili understands that to be successful in Division I, he needs to build himself up to keep up with opposing big men. He learned that lesson early on, having faced off in practice against striker Walter Whyte, second striker Malcolm Chimezie and older striker Nevin Zink.
“I’ve got a few bumps under the rim that I was like, ‘Damn, okay, I need to improve my physicality,'” Nobili said.
Nobili grew up in the Bologna suburbs and began playing for Largo at Virtus’ youth academy when he was twelve. He later moved across the Atlantic to New Jersey, where he attended the Paul VI Prep School. averaged 10 points per game. The transition wasn’t easy. The move brought Nobili to a new country, thousands of miles from home, with new social dynamics and a language he could barely understand.
“It might not look like it, but the difference between Italy and New Jersey is really big,” he said. “I couldn’t speak English at all. I knew the basic grammar, but I couldn’t really talk to anyone.”
By the end of the year, Nobili had learned enough English to communicate comfortably with others and had settled in the United States as a high school basketball player.
Eventually, he joined SPIRE, a nationally recognized postgraduate program in Ohio for which NBA All-Star LaMelo once played ball.
Nobili is the first European player at BU in the Joe Jones era and the first international player in the squad since Cameroonian Blaise Mbargorba played for the Terriers in 2017.
Nobili first caught the attention of BU assistant coach Curt Wilson when Nobili was with Paul VI. and the Terriers sent him an offer in April 2021 before he started playing at SPIRE.
Nobili has played just minutes along with newcomers Otto Landrum and Ben Roy so far this season, but after BU’s three straight losses at the Cream City Classic in Milwaukee, Jones said he would consider tinkering with the rotation and giving the newcomer more options admit .
For now, Nobili has focused on studying the playing style of Whyte, BU’s starting power forward and top scorer.
“I think that’s my position, so I have to see what he’s doing and what he’s not doing,” Nobili said of Whyte. “He’s really efficient on the pitch and he helps the team every game, so I need to take some of his tools and some of his skills with me.”
After ending his career at BU, Nobili hopes to return to Italy and play in the Euroleague – the premier European basketball league that also includes Virtus, his hometown team.
“He has a bright future,” Jones said. “He’s a hard worker, he wants to be good, he’s very trainable. All things we love at BU.”