By Kevin Callahan
The popular Eurostep has taken two bounds across the Atlantic Ocean and arrived at two South Jersey schools.
A pair of student-athletes from Italy enrolled at Bishop Eustace Prep School and Gloucester Catholic High School in September. Both are intriguing basketball players who attended a basketball camp in South Jersey over the summer and wanted to stay in the United States to study and play hoops.
Mattia Morini, a junior, attends Bishop Eustace while Nico Ferrari, a senior, attends Gloucester Catholic.
“Gloucester Catholic has had a burgeoning foreign student population in the last five years,” Gloucester Catholic coach Todd Powers said. “I was contacted and told about a kid who had been at the Rowan camp a few times and was interested in coming here for an education and play.
“We contacted Nico in the summertime and his parents, and we went back-and-forth on email and finally tied together the loose ends in late August,” added Powers, a guidance counselor at his alma mater.
As private schools look to increase enrollment and manage budgets, the foreigners add both to the student body population and to teacher’s pay roll.
And both Morini and Ferrari should bolster both basketball programs.
“He is really adapting well and is doing well in his classes, which is the most important thing,” Bishop Eustace coach Bob Falconiero said. “And he's making friends. The kids are working out in the gym and weight room and he seems to be getting along with everybody, which is great.
“He has been welcomed with open arms, the kids all get along with him and enjoy talking with him.”
Both student-athletes are interested in improving their English.
“He speaks broken English but he certainly speaks pretty well,” Falconiero said about Morini. “He understands, I think, a little better than he speaks. He will just speak English all the time now and the kids seem to be interested in the different culture.”
Morini and Ferrari are friends and played on club teams in Italy sponsored by Novellara Basket and Universal Basket 2010.
“It's definitely a win-win,” Falconiero added. “ I think it something that's very good for the school with someone from a different culture and for the kid, that's a big step to leave his family at 17 years old.”
The two International student-athletes are from the same Reggio Emilia region of Italy.
“It’s great for him, he wants to get an American education and play some ball, get a diploma and go to a college or university,” Powers said. “It’s good for him and it's a nice story.
“And it's good for us, he's a very good basketball player.”
Ferrari is a 6-foot point guard while Morini is a 6-6 forward.
“It is definitely a win-win for everybody,” Powers said. “He came here looking for the American experience and he's going to fully get it.
“It will make our city, Gloucester, a little more cultured. You have someone coming over from Europe who speaks fantastic English and is a very engaging personality.
“And from a baseball standpoint we're going to see a European style player (who) is very fundamentally sound. He passes the ball very well and I've been most impressed with this defense.”
And that should mean seeing the popular Eurostep, which is when a player picks up his dribble and takes a step in one direction and then a step in the other direction.
“I think our guys will really learn from him,” Powers said.