Monday, June 25, 2018
Sports

As basketball star lives dream in Italy, Armwood retires his jersey

SEFFNER — Jab step left. Dribble drive right. Crossover and step back. Fade-away jumper. Adam Sollazzo repeated that cycle countless times in Armwood's gymnasium, honing his basketball chops.

Now his old jersey is a permanent fixture in that same Hawks' field house.

Armwood retired Sollazzo's No. 20 on Thursday, making him the first Hawk basketball player to gain that honor.

"I spent so many hours in that gym, working on my game," said Sollazzo, 23. "To see my jersey hanging up there is going to be something special."

Sollazzo could not attend the ceremony, because he is playing pro ball in Italy. However, a number of Sollazzo's relatives stood in for him, including dad Paul and mom Terry.

"I have a very close family, and none of this would be possible without them," Sollazzo said. "My mother made her first trip outside the United States this year to come see me in Italy, and I talk to them by some form of communication once a day."

Sollazzo, a then-St. Petersburg Times All-Suncoast first team pick, averaged nearly 22 points per game en route to being named the Tampa Bay Basketball Coaches Association player of the year as a senior in 2008. Off the court, Sollazzo was just as good, earning the Alston "Mac" McGahagin Award as the county's top academic boys basketball player.

"Adam was a terrific basketball player, terrific in the classroom and a great person," Hawks coach Jeff Pafunda said. "He really just excels at everything he does."

Sollazzo graduated magna cum laude in 2012 from East Tennessee State, where he twice led the Buccaneers to the NCAA tournament and as a senior was named the Division 1 national scholar athlete of the year.

"His success in the classroom had a lot to do with why we wanted to honor him," Pafunda said. "He was a true student-athlete in every sense of the word."

Sollazzo got workouts with New York and Atlanta after graduating, and although he said "both teams really liked my game," they told him to play overseas "to work on a few things."

"They both were impressed but thought I need some time to grow," he said. "When I came overseas, I wasn't much of a 3-point shooter. But I've been putting in the work and now have one of the better percentages in the league."

After a successful stint in Germany last season, Sollazzo this year became the first American to sign with Acmar Ravenna in Liga 2, an Italian second-division pro team. He's averaging 19.1 points per game and pulling down 5.4 rebounds.

"I remember in Spanish class writing a paper and saying my dream was to play pro ball in Italy," Sollazzo said. "And I love it over here."

And due to his heritage, Sollazzo is finalizing the necessary paperwork to qualify for a possible slot on the Italian National team.

"It would be amazing to come home and play against the U.S. National teams," he said. "A dream."

For now, the 6-foot-6 American is integrating himself as well as he can among the natives in the small Italian beach town. Ravenna is about 45 minutes from Bologna and is roughly a two-hour train ride to either Florence or Venice.

"I'm actually starting to understand the language, and I've had a lot of fun exploring all the country and taking in the history," Sollazzo said. "And of course, the food is outstanding. Most people around here know me because I was the first American to sign with the team, so I've been invited to dinner a lot. I've had about 15 Italian grandmas cook for me."

As much as he loves the country, the NBA is still in the front of Sollazzo's mind. But if that doesn't work out, there could be worse careers than playing pro ball in Italy.

"I want to make it back home and into the league, for sure," he said. "But I could also see a life here in Italy. I just have so much love for the game and am so happy I get to wake up every day and get paid to play basketball."

Comments
USF considering former Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long

USF considering former Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long

While Tom Jurich remains the preferred choice among several prominent USF boosters (and some coaches) for the Bulls' athletic director gig, our intel has revealed another former Power Five AD also is getting a serious look.Jeff Long, who spent nearly...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Ex-Bucs DE Keith McCants arrested, facing cocaine charge

Ex-Bucs DE Keith McCants arrested, facing cocaine charge

Former Alabama star and Bucs defensive end Keith McCants was arrested in St. Petersburg early Monday morning and is facing a felony charge of possession of crack cocaine, according to arrest records.McCants, 50, was arrested by the Pinellas County Sh...
Updated: 1 hour ago
No Tropicana Field return for Evan Longoria in 2019

No Tropicana Field return for Evan Longoria in 2019

The Rays take their once-every-three- years turn playing NL West teams in 2019. But, based on an early draft of the schedule, won't get to welcome back traded franchise cornerstone 3B Evan Longoria.The Rays will face Longoria's new team, the Giants, ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampaís Aric Almirola is already close to passing Danica Patrick

Tampaís Aric Almirola is already close to passing Danica Patrick

When Tampa's Aric Almirola took over Danica Patrick's ride at Stewart-Haas Racing, he knew one of two things would happen."I'm either going to go out and be successful," Almirola said before the start of the NASCAR season, "or I'm not."So far, he has...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Witness says Jameis Winston was unruly and alone in Uber

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Witness says Jameis Winston was unruly and alone in Uber

Tom Jones joins the podcast to talk about Jameis Winston's reported three-game suspension, as information from another witness has come out saying Winston was unruly and in the Uber by himself during the evening in question.Plus, the Rays sweep the b...
Updated: 3 hours ago
What name would a new Rays stadium carry? Itís a multi-million dollar question

What name would a new Rays stadium carry? Itís a multi-million dollar question

TAMPA ó Yankee Stadium, Fenway and Wrigley are ballparks whose names are woven into the lore of Americaís national pastime.Petco Park and Guaranteed Rate Field? Not so much.The trade-off for that clunky corporate handle is typically an annual payout ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
The pros and cons of Tom Jurich as potential USF AD candidate

The pros and cons of Tom Jurich as potential USF AD candidate

Former Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich has emerged as a legitimate candidate to take over USF, as our Joey Knight reported late last week.Despite the chatter around USF and in the industry, I'm skeptical; I wouldn't be surprised if the Bulls'...
Updated: 7 hours ago
A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

TAMPA — Every year during draft season, players from the Tampa Bay area are selected in the NFL, MLB and even NBA drafts.But NHL?Sure enough, in the third round of Saturday's NHL draft, the Jets selected Nathan Smith, a forward who was born in ...
Published: 06/24/18

Sports on TV/radio for Monday, June 25

TODAYBaseballAngels at Royals4 p.m.MLBNationals at Rays7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMDiamondbacks at Marlins7 p.m.FSFYankees at Phillies7 p.m.MLBCubs at Dodgers10 p.m.ESPNCollege baseball, World SeriesBest-of-3 championship, Game 1: Oregon St. vs. Mississippi...
Published: 06/24/18
Rays season turning into good one

Rays season turning into good one

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays are not the best team in baseball. They are not going to win the World Series this year. Heck, they probably won't even make the playoffs.But I tell you what. This team is a heck of a lot of fun to watch.And ...
Published: 06/24/18