Lee Melchionni: This past summer it was nice to be a "normal" kid for a while and enjoy being young. I left for Italy on August 18th and have been playing over here since.
Since moving to Italy, have you done the tourist thing in addition to being a professional?
I've been to Milan to the incredible Duomo. I've seen Leonardo Da Vinci's painting "The Last Supper". I have been to Turin to see the "Shroud of Turin" that Jesus was supposedly wrapped in after he was taken of the cross. I've also been to Venice.
How much of a cultural and language barrier are you dealing with?
The cultural and language barriers are immense. People are just different over here. They stare at you like you have the bubonic plague if you are not immaculately dressed. Also, basketball is not really a big deal in Europe. Soccer dominates the sports landscape.
Speaking of fashion, how long before we find you gracing the billboards of Europe in some fancy European garb?
To be honest, now that I am a professional, if a company approaches me about paying me to pitch just about any product, I would strongly consider it.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest difference between American basketball and European?
The game is much more physical. They allow a ton more contact off the ball which inhibits movement. Also, its just like soccer. Guys act, dive, and flop to get calls from the refs. The refs also favor their native players. The refs give Italian guys more calls while the Americans have to work for it.
What's the toughest adjustment you've had to make?
The toughest part has been adjusting to the different international "traveling" call where you cannot extend the ball to strong hand. You have to put it down on the floor first.
Where's the best place to eat in your neck of the woods? Is there a local dish worth noting?
We have a local restaurant that we can eat at for very cheap. It's a great atmosphere and I have fallen in love with "Riso Parmiggiano". Which is immaculate Parmesan Rice.
What's a typical day like as a pro basketball player?
I usually get up around 9:15 to go lift or to a shoot around. I come back to my house aroun 11 ish and I make myself lunch. I then take a nap. After I nap I mess around on the internet, read, or watch television. We have practice at 5:30 and after practice I either go out to dinner or come home and make myself something to eat. Waste some more time at night and then get up and do it all over again the next day.
How often do you get home and keep up with things there?
I was able to come home for about a week at Christmas and I thanks to the internet it makes it very easy to keep up with things at home.
Did you have a chance to workout with this year's team? What are your opinions of them to date?
I have played with all the guys on the team and I have watched them this year. We are a young team this year that is struggling to find it's identity. We play great defense and we play with a lot of heart. I love watching them.
In four seasons, you must have a list of top memories. What were some of your best moments on the court? What do you wish you could change from your career?
My favorite on court memory was of Chris Duhon hitting a reverse layup to beat Carolina at Carolina my sophmore year. I would have liked to have won a few national championships but only 1 team can achieve that goal, other than that, I would not change a thing.
You roomed with Shelden for four seasons. Much has been made of him changing and becoming more social from the freshman to senior year. What were your impressions of him over that time?
It was great to see Shelden blossom in his four years at Duke from a kid who never talked to a person that really opened up and gave his heart to Duke University. He is a great basketball player and a better person.
What were your impressions of Shelden's retirement ceremony?
I thought he gave a "killer" speech. No, but seriously, I was proud to be his teammate for four years and apart of his journey into the rafters.
How did you end up playing pro ball in Italy? Have you seen any familiar faces over there?
I obtained Italian citizenship because I had a great grandfather born here so therefore is was easiest for me to play in Italy. I have seen a ton of guys from the states that I recognize.
What are your favorite memories of Coach K?
Freshman year, in practice, Shelden had just had three offense rebounds in a row and finally scored a tough basket. Coach stopped practice, walked over to him, and said "look at my arms son, you just gave me goosebumps." There were goosebumps all over him. At that moment, I thought to myself that this man "feels it" more than any person I have ever met. Everything he preaches, he believe with all his soul and you cannot help but believe in him.
I know it is cliche but I think all of went from boys to men. We all came in within our expectations and vision of what we would become at Duke but we all became a part of something bigger than ourselves.
What are your long term plans after basketball is behind you?
I think Wall Street is the most likely career path. I may end up going to Law School of Business School but we will see.
What are your best memories of the fans?
I love the Cameron Crazies for their passion and who they are. They make Cameron what it is and without them, Cameron is just another stadium. Maryland fans take the cake in terms of ruthlessness.
Who was the worst trash talker on the Duke team? Who was the worst opponent?
JJ was the worst trash talker on the team but you can afford to talk trash when you hit 90% of your shots. Chris Paul was the worst opponent. He had this choir boy image but trust me, he was no choir boy on the court.
What's the most extravagant thing you saw as a Duke player?
We took the Rolling Stones jet to California. We each our own individual DVD players with a choice of movies to watch, hot towels, food for days, just an unbelievable plane. The stewardess told me that the same plane had flown President Bush around during his Campaing for presidency.
What is your opinion on the black uniforms? Fan or no? What about the black seeping in on the whites and blues as well?
I like the black uniforms because they are something different and few schools have them. They are cool for the players. I do not like them on the blues and whites because I feel those are the traditional Duke colors and they should stay that way.
If you could go back and do it all over again what, if anything, would you do differently?
I would not change a thing. Duke has benefitted me in so many ways on and off the court and I know because of what I went through there I am a better person because of it.