Suffield’s Viggiano lives the dream in Italy

In 2006, all it took to go watch Suffield High School alum Jeff Viggiano play basketball was a 45 minute ride up Route 91 to the University of Massachusetts to watch the Minutemen play.

Today, it takes a little more effort.

“If somebody had told me seven years ago I’d be playing overseas,” Viggiano said, “a nine hour flight from home, I would have told them they were crazy.”

A proud New Englander, Viggiano left his mark at both his high school and college. Now, he’s making his mark in Italy, playing for Enel Brindisi in Italy-SerieA.

“I never thought that basketball could bring me all over the place,” Viggiano said. “One of the main reasons I went to UMass is because I’ve always been a home body. I wanted to stick close to home, but play competitive basketball. It was only 45 minutes up the road so my family and friends could see me play.”

The 6’6” swingman’s resume now includes stints in Hungary, Sweden, outside Milan, outside Venice, and now in Southern Italy in the small town of Brindisi.

“At the end of my senior year, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Viggiano said. “I was going to get a job and join the real world. But my assistant coach at UMass was good friends with an agent and I signed with him right away. He got me started in Europe.”

In his first full season with Enel Brindisi, Viggiano averaged 11 points per game and 24 minutes per game. As a key contributor, the 28-year old enjoyed playing in front of full arenas with a passionate fan base.

“Obviously soccer rules everything in Italy,” Viggiano said, “but the gyms in the top divisions have to hold 3,500 people it’s a league rule. Most of the gyms are 5,000 people, and the majority of the games sell out. Basketball is gaining popularity every year and with guys like Danilo Gallanari and Andrea Bargnani, it helps grow the sport. We only play once a week in the Italian league and they have two games nationally broadcast in Italy. It’s pretty popular, and they [are] diehard fans. They could compete with any university or pro team, on a much smaller scale obviously.”

The former Wildcat thoroughly enjoys embracing Italian culture, constantly improving his Italian while also enjoying duel citizenship.

“The team I first signed for in Italy, “ he said, “we realized my great great grandfather was born in Italy so I was able to get my Italian citizenship. That’s why I am in Italy. The passport gives me citizenship and makes it a lot easier for me to find a job.”

Another challenge is adjusting to the European style of play. But as Viggiano started getting acclimated with a new system of play, he realized that it is an enhancement to his game.

“It’s much more of a team game in Italy and Europe in general,” Viggiano, who shot 62% from the field last year, said. “A lot of the basketball [in the United States] is 1-on-1 and guys trying to break each other down off the dribble. In Italy, it’s a lot of a team game. It’s better for me. I can’t always beat my man 1-on-1. I need someone to create shots for me. I have been much more successful overseas than I ever was in college. It’s my style of basketball. Everything I learned at Suffield and UMass helped me get to where I am today, but once I got to Europe I had to learn a new style to play.”

But with teammates like Villanova’s Scotty Reynolds and Temple’s Antywane Robinson, Viggiano is able to feel right at home on a basketball court in the middle of Southern Italy.

“All the basketball teams, there are at least four other Americans on the team,” Viggiano said. “Everything we do on the court is in English. There is not much Italian spoken on the basketball court. All the Italians speak or understand enough.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *