Melli with Fenerbahçe in 2017
|No. 4 – Fenerbahçe|
|Position||Power forward / Center|
January 26, 1991|
Reggio Emilia, Italy
|Nationality||Italian / American|
|Listed height||6 ft 8.75 in (2.05 m)|
|Listed weight||235 lb (107 kg)|
|NBA draft||2013 / Undrafted|
|Career highlights and awards|
Nicolò Melli (born January 26, 1991) is an Italian professional basketball player for Fenerbahçe of the Turkish Basketball Super League and the EuroLeague. He mainly plays at the power forward position, but he has also played at center. Melli earned an All-EuroLeague Second Team selection in 2017.
- 1 Youth career
- 2 Professional career
- 3 International career
- 4 Personal
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The Reggio Emilia native started his career with home town side Pallacanestro Reggiana. After an accumulation of injuries Melli was called up to train with the senior team in October 2004, at only 13. He sat on the bench during a 24 October league game (an age record) though he did not play and returned to the youth teams afterwards.
In October 2006 he participated in the Italian leg of the Jordan Classic Camp international tour, regrouping a selection of the thirty most promising under-16 players, with the MVP earning a trip to the American edition of the camp. Melli was selected as co-MVP, meeting Michael Jordan and going to the U.S. in April 2007. He talked of recruiting interest from American college UCLA during the same period.
In August 2007, he signed a five-year professional contract with Pallacanestro Reggiana and started training with the first team. The same year, in October, the 16-year-old debuted in the Italian national second division LegaDue. In May 2008, during the promotion semifinals against Aurora Basket Jesi, he replaced injured starter Benjamin Ortner and contributed 16 points and 15 rebounds in a losing effort. He finished the season playing an average of 10.6 minutes with 3.4 points and 2.9 rebounds.
During the off-season, the 17-year-old participated in the Reebok Eurocamp in Treviso but did not make an impression on observers (albeit playing against older players, sometimes by five years). He also returned to the U.S., attending the Adidas Nations that pitted international teams of promising youngsters. Though he was praised by an observer for his work ethic, it was also noted that his game (and lack of athleticism) was unsuited to the American game.
Melli started the next season in great form, with 12 points and 18 rebounds followed by 24 points in two games, however, on 21 December 2008, Melli suffered a serious knee injury. Scans revealed an anterior cruciate ligament injury on his left knee, requiring surgery and at least five months of rehabilitation though he would be able to continue his career.
On the radar of strong sides for some time, Melli joined Armani Jeans Milano, of the elite domestic Serie A and European EuroLeague in July 2010, signing a four-year deal. After struggling to earn minutes, Melli was loaned to fellow Serie A side Scavolini-Siviglia Pesaro in February 2011. A month later he returned to Milan, to take part in the Italian All Star Game where he contributed 12 points for Italy. Melli finished the 2010–11 season with 3.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 16 minutes per game for Pesaro (compared with 9 minutes for Milan previously).
The next season saw Melli accrue slightly more playing time but despite some highlights, such as a team-high 17 points in a EuroLeague Group G defeat against UNICS Kazan, he finished the regular season with 3.4 points and 2.7 rebounds in 11 minutes per game (Serie A) and 3.8 points and 1.9 rebounds in 9 minutes per game (EuroLeague). He had more impact in the Serie A playoffs, including decisive performances in the semifinal game 3 against former side Pesaro (5 points in 19 minutes and a good defensive performance, with 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block) and then in game 4 of the finals against future champions Montepaschi Siena where he was part of a second-half fightback to win the game, finishing with 11 points and 4 rebounds in 13 minutes.
In 2012–13, Melli increased his averages to 5.8 points and 4.1 rebounds (Serie A), 4.6 points and 3 rebounds (EuroLeague), and his minutes to respectively 17 and 15 in a season nearly devoid of highlights both personally and for Milan (eliminated in the domestic quarterfinals and the EuroLeague regular season). An exception was his third successive participation in the December Italian league All-Star Game, in which he top-scored along with Milan teammate Alessandro Gentile (18 points), adding a game-best 10 rebounds. During the summer, he worked out with a number of NBA sides, with an observer commenting that he seemed too light physically for the league, he would go undrafted in the 2013 NBA draft.
2013–14 proved to be Melli's breakthrough season, with his good performances becoming more regular as he cemented his place in Milan's starting five. The first of those decisive contributions came in Milan's second EuroLeague game of the season against Žalgiris, where Melli scored a career-high 20 points, adding 9 rebounds and 2 steals in 25 minutes to earn a PIR of 28. During the decisive 74-73 victory against Brose Bamberg in the penultimate group stage game, he defended Wright as he missed the Brose's last shot which allowed Milan to progress to the Top 16. Though he lad less impact further on as Milan reached the EuroLeague quarterfinals, Melli finished with respectable averages of 5.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists and 0.9 steals in around 21 minutes in the competition.
Domestically, he regularly posted scored in double figures, including a career-high 24 points against Roma, put against more average games he finished with 6.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in a career-high 21 minutes. Discarding the statistics, Melli had crucial contributions during the Serie A playoffs, starting with 18 points in 22 minutes in the first game against Pistoia. After starting the finals series against defending champions Montepaschi Siena with some off-games Melli exploded in the final two games. In the do-or-die game 6, with Milan trailing, he scored two successive three-pointers to regain the lead before adding a steal and a number of decisive rebounds as Milan won the game to earn a game 7 decider. In that game, he contributed 11 points and a career-high 13 rebounds as Milan won to become Italian champions for the first time in 18 years.
In July 2014, his contract with Milan was extended for another year. The season proved more difficult for both parties, Melli had an unremarkable season (5.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in the EuroLeague, 5.6 and 4.3 in Serie A) as Milan were stopped in the Italian playoff semifinals in their title defense and stalled in the EuroLeague Top 16.
Melli moved abroad in July 2015, signing with German side Brose Bamberg for two years. He cited Brose's strong pursuit of his services and their offering him a more important role in the side as motivation for the move abroad, adding that the presence of compatriots Andrea Trinchieri and Daniele Baiesi as head coach and GM respectively would facilitate his adaptation. Melli was named the MVP of the Month of November of the 2015–16 EuroLeague.
On July 8, 2017, Melli signed a three-year contract with Turkish club Fenerbahçe. In 2017–18 EuroLeague, Fenerbahçe made it to the 2018 EuroLeague Final Four, its fourth consecutive Final Four appearance. Eventually, they lost to Real Madrid with 80–85 in the final game. In the final game, Melli scored 28 points which was the highest points scored by a player since 1975. He had season-best performance in the EuroLeague final, having 28 points and 6 rebounds. Over 36 EuroLeague games, he averaged 8.9 points, 5 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.
Melli played with the Italian Under-16 side at the 2007 FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship, averaging 13.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2 blocks per game (all three team bests) as he was selected to the tournament's best five. With the U-18's at the 2008 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship, he had 9.5 points, 6.4 rebounds (the latter a team best).
In the 2011 FIBA Europe Under-20 Championship, Melli contributed 10.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1 block in nearly 25 minutes per game, including 23 points and 11 rebounds in the quarterfinal against Montenegro, to help Italy reach the final. He had an off-game against Spain, grabbing 7 rebounds and scoring 9 points but shooting 2 for 8 on the floor and committing four fouls as Italy had to make do with a silver medal.
Called up in the Italy squad for EuroBasket 2013, the power forward had to play in an unfamiliar center position due to the lack of big men in Italy's squad. Alternating with Marco Cusin, he was pitted against bigger and stronger opponents, finishing the tournament with a respectable 4,4 points and 4,3 rebounds in around 16 minutes per game – with highs of 14 points and 10 rebounds against Turkey - as Italy reached the quarterfinals.
Melli is the son of the former volleyball player Julie Vollertsen - a silver medalist with the United States at the 1984 Olympic Games - and corporate lawyer (formerly amateur basketball player for Pallacanestro Reggiana and television journalist) Leopoldo Melli. They met when Vollertsen moved from the U.S. to Reggio Emilia to play professionally. Enrico, Melli's younger brother who was born in 1995, has also played basketball for Reggiana.
Melli is a dual citizen of Italy and the United States. However, the first time he visited the latter was at 16 and he doesn't feel very American. He describes his English as good but not fluent.
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- "Regular Season Round 11 MVP: Nicolo Melli, Brose Bamberg". EuroLeague. 12 December 2016.
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