Marques Green already won

Cesare Milanti
22 min readMar 20, 2022

The smallest on the court is sometimes essential.

No fear (Ciamillo-Castoria)

I remember well that in that weekend at the end of January we played the five-a-side football tournament at the oratory. Nothing spectacular in the area near Pavia, but a discreet trick to escape the boredom of cold weekends, in which the fog is in a fight with the darkness that falls even mid-afternoon, forcing the priest to turn on much more than a light on the field where you would improvise talents come out of who knows which football academy. Dad also worked on Saturdays, busy with the series of deliveries distributed in the week just passed and in the one that was coming. But not that Saturday.

“Don’t make any plans today”, he said at breakfast. Or perhaps I am paraphrasing, January 27th 2013 is too far away to accurately remind me of such a detail. “Today I have to go to the oratory, Dad”, I tried to dig in, with the fear that the “commitments” would be replaced by an anonymous and circumstantially boring visit to relatives. “I’ll take you to a basketball game”. Well, maybe the football tournament could wait: my friends would understand, they did not lose a piece so valuable that they could not replace it in any way, on the contrary.

And so I remember that we left in the direction of Assago. From the country where I have always lived, surrounded by the countryside, it was easier to move through a series of small towns arranged almost like a sort of terraced houses: one after the other, all the same, with the same settings, without a comma out of place in a hypothetical narrative of a Lombard novelist. After an half-hour drive, we find ourselves in a chapter still partially unexplored in my life: live basketball.

Olimpia Milano-Virtus Bologna, Mason Rocca honored by the Biancorossi in the pre-match, Peppe Poeta in the leading version of the Bianconeri and a very young Riccardo Moraschini against what, one day, would have been his team. And then the Milan of the Greeks Bourousis and Fotsis, arrived for the great European conquests and left without the loot, the Milan of the young Melli and Gentile, a Keith Langford that warmed the engines for the following season, the one of his exploit in the Old Continent.

Marques Oscar Green’s Milano, which at the end of that game - will end 91-68 for the then EA7 Emporio Armani by Sergio Scariolo, who today would sit on the other bench - parades together with his teammates to the locker room, high-fiving the lucky ones at the tunnel entrance. I did it too, but the fact that I had to lower - and not raise - my hand to greet a basketball player made me curious. When a few seconds later Bourousis follows him, the movement is opposite and does not give me any kind of disorientation.

“High” five, as with me (Ciamillo-Castoria)

But that point guard I was passing a bit of centimeters had struck mine (and that of many at the Mediolanum Forum) attention: he had not lived a memorable performance, but I remember that behind every choice there was a peculiar attention, a certain type of study. I remain attached to that Green with the number 30 - which will also be on my first jersey purchased, from California and with “Curry” on the back -, as you can see in my biography here on the Overtime website. I think I’m not exaggerating when I say that Marques was the spark that made me fall in love with basketball. This is also why, when I proposed him to tell me something about his career on the occasion of his birthday - it’s 40 candles on the day of the publication of this piece - and he answered me with a “Whats up man. No problem at all!!”, I smiled.

Marques Green before Europe

The little onewe observed in his many years in Italy was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, twin town with the Italian town of Montella: I leave you this information apparently irrelevant here, we will need it later. We said, Norristown: not really the safest place in America to grow in the 80s, but at the same time the city where Marques begins to approach basketball. In a short time, many recognize him: his short stature allows him, but above all it’s his uniqueness in the field to shine. Snappy, unpredictable, gritty.

In 2000 he moved to the Big Apple, to St. Bonaventure University, a private Franciscan college: it was a success. In 2002/2003, in his third year, he played an amazing basketball: in 22 games played with 37' of average per game, he found 21.3 points and 7.9 assists, with 40% from the arc and 87% on free throws. It is a loose cannon for the opposing defenses, because if you double him, he necessarily finds the free partner, but if you do not double him…he punishes you. He was nominated for the Bob Cousy Award, an award for best play in the NCAA - also won by Ja Morant and Kemba Walker, just to name a couple - and found a place in the first team of the All-Atlantic 10.

He is esteemed by coaches all over the country, he commands the ranking in stolen balls and becomes a symbol, a myth, so much that about 18 years after his last game on the parquet of the Reilly Center, he was inducted into the school’s HOF. Oh, just to clarify: the trousers he wore on the field were his trademark since college. Times when his name started to circulate, also for the way he was raised as a man and player: “I had a very very great supporting system. Starting from my family, father, coaches… I never really had anyone who tried to stop my career or anything like that. I always had great people around me who encouraged me and motivated me, so I was very blessed in that. If there was somebody who tried to stop me, he didn’t do a good job for sure. It wasn’t around me at all, I only got positivity”.

In 2004 he finished his university adventure and, despite being nominated twice in the NABC All-district, a prize recognized by the best coaches in the NCAA, a call from the top of the NBA does not come. The stature, perhaps. Who knows. But Marques cares relatively, because everything happens really very quickly in his summer of Graduation: “I was blessed cause I gradueted from St. Bonaventure on May 13th and I signed my contract within June 14th. A lot of people go through the whole summer, the don’t know what they’re gonna do: I didn’t go through that. There was no anxiety, no stress on where I could play next year. It was immediate. Jean-Denys Choulet, Roanne’s coach, came to North Carolina, in this camp where I was. I didn’t see me playing in college, but he was like: “Hey, I wanna sign you”. I was blessed, I didn’t have to go through anything. It was just “Hey, we have a contract for you already in gym”. And so it’s France, first in Roanne and then in Nancy, where he almost won the French championship and asserted himself as one of the most intriguing new faces of the championship, certainly not one of the most competitive in Europe. If you’re talking about competitiveness and higher levels, you have to move to Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey; go for the last one, since the TED Ankara Kolejliler call comes, in the capital. The numbers are frightening for a player of that size: averages of 18.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 3.5 recovered balls per game, with 42.9% from the perimeter and 91.4% on free throws. The sirens come from another of the countries mentioned above, giving way to a love that will sometimes be interrupted temporarily, but that certainly would never end.


To prepare in the best way this written homage to Marques Green, I thought to contact Marco Boniciolli - veteran of fresh victory in the Italian Cup (look a little the cases of life) A2 with the APU Udine, whom I thank infinitely for availability - the first to bring him to Italy. During our chat, I was amazed by the words of the Coach, who I decided to bring back in full because they are real snapshots projected in the past. And his account of the arrival of what would have been the leader in the control room of his AIR Avellino is symptomatic of the unique character of that small great ruler of the parquet.

Everything comes from the second gear in the award-winning Green-Williams company, fundamental axis in the successes of that year: “I received from the Ercolino family the task, as well as head coach, also of GM, being entrusted with the task of building the team. The market had already gone a little further, because I think it was the beginning of July. I referred to the usual group of Italian agents I knew and on the pivot I already had a clear idea: Eric Williams, who the year before had been chosen by Pino Sacripanti in Cantù and was the only player of whom Harold Jamison, my center of the previous year with who we saved from relegation, was physically afraid in the championship. Therefore, the center was already chosen, also because Cantù did not reconfirm him and therefore we took him. As usual, I was trying to start building the team with a play-pivot axis”.

And so we have to look for this playmaker: “I got videos of this guy who at the time played in Turkey and I was lucky enough to see a game. The thing that struck me very much…”. Here it stops, to introduce an important permit, which goes well beyond the actual value of the player: “There was an assessment of a technical nature and a “marketing” one, let’s say. The technique one was this: after a game between TED Ankara and a top team (it should be the challenge at Banvit considering the performances of that year and the memory of Coach, ed) it was amazing to see how it was clear that when he was on the field, he also scored a lot, something not in the ropes of Marques, the team seemed to have the fluidity of the best Golden State Warriors; as soon as he went on the bench, the team manifested itself for what were their few qualities. Burdened by a very high time, because the coach benched him for the bare minimum, they won the game but Marques missed the safety shot, let’s say. Then the other opponents had a shot to win, but they missed it. A resounding celebration, and I am fortunate to see the flying man of Turkish television who, while the celebrations are underway, goes to Marques and asks him a question about his great performance; I saw this young man, 25/26 years old, with a coolness as if he was talking about something that happened to a stranger, instead of celebrating a huge victory, declaring: “A player like me cannot afford to miss that shot”. He did not comment on the game, did not comment on the dozens of good things he had done in terms of defense, rebounds, assists or recovered balls. I was very impressed with his personality. After watching that video and watching others, I decided to go to his agent at the time and sign him because he had no market at that time, taking it at a very low price. As usual, the doubt was about his stature”.

Do you remember Boniciolli’s break earlier? There were two evaluations: a technique one, linked to the potential of the guy and the strong personality he had shown on the field, and one that was out of the field, in many quotes. This is how the first Italian coach in the career of MG4 explains it: “Then there was also my “marketing” idea, because I thought this: if in a city like Avellino we get the choice of having a 168 cm boy as team leader, we strike gold. We would become a team in which children can identify themselves, because Marques was nothing physically”. Here is the magic, the one that brings him to Avellino and the same that transmitted to me - as well as to many other sports initiates - the first basketball game I saw live. A magnet that does not lose attraction, an element apparently in contradiction with the environment that surrounds him, but that turns out to be the necessary gear to make the machine operate.

A gear with an important personality, as pointed out by the one who wanted to bring him in Serie A and as said by Marques Green himself: “Obviously I’m not the tallest player, so I credit that a lot to my father and the men in my life: coaches that I had to put confidence in me. Always pouring confidence to me, that helped me growing the type of personality that I have. I’m blessed in that area”.

Marques Green, O’ wolf (Ciamillo-Castoria)

And the Avellino car, with Marques and Coach Boniciolli at the wheel, scared everyone with the roar of his engine: “We tried until the last moment to bring the young Gigi Datome as 3, but in the end we turned on Alessandro Righetti but I played him guard, and then the other two purchases. In addition to Nikola Radulovic, the other big hit was Devin Smith, who came from a relegation to LEB Gold in Spain. That year was an incredible season. I called his agent and saw an extraordinary player, saying: “But how is it possible that a player like him in mid-July is still free?”. He said: “The market considers him too slow to play at 3 and too small to play at 4. Plus, it comes from a relegation…”. That quintet made up of Green, Righetti, Smith, Radulovic and Williams, players with a great understanding of the game, adding others like Cătălin Burlacu and Stalin Ortiz who made a good championship, as well as Daniele Cavaliero coming out of Fortitudo during the season, made us realize that we had built an extraordinary team”.


The season begins with some setbacks, even tough against teams of absolute value: three defeats with Montegranaro and the two finalists of the previous season, Siena and Virtus Bologna, with a pairing that immediately puts to the test the newcomer with the jersey number 4, since against the Tuscans he faced a veteran Terrell McIntyre from a year as MVP, who in that game signs 27 points and 8 balls recovered. Coach Boniciolli reminds me of that start: “We started bad, so much that there was talk of my discharge. There was a great gesture of loyalty by Tonino Zorzi, who refused to replace me despite being a coach who wrote the history of our basketball”. But the AIR Avellino is a diesel and proves this starting from the next game against Udine, October 14th 2007: begins a streak that will see the Irpinian lose only 4 times - against Biella, Rome, Rieti and again Montegranaro - in 20 matches. Marques Green is metronomic and, sometimes, takes the lead, as with 33 points, 12 assists and 7 stolen against Capo d’Orlando. Or repeating again the number of decisive passes in the derby of Campania against Naples, without forgetting the success away against Danilo Gallinari’s Milan.

Avellino takes the pass for the Final Eight of the Italian Cup that would be played in Casalecchio di Reno. It is the first time in its history, since the competition is decided with this format; the first group, on the other hand, was a success: fifth place in the championship after having achieved a breath of salvation in 2006/2007, with a change of course that was noticed immediately. The team turns and Boniciolli remembers it well: “I had the good fortune to live other Final Eight, the following year I lost the final of a point against Siena on the bench of Virtus Bologna. The team was very strong and they knew it. As always in these very concentrated competitions we arrived physically ready to withstand the impact of three games in less than three days. There was a team that already at that time of the season, also thanks to the extraordinary ability of Tonino Zorzi, relied a lot on reading games as well as execution. In addition to Marques playing around, we had four players who knew basketball fine and subtle, because Righetti was a scientist, Devin Smith made an extraordinary European career, Radulovic from 4 was an added playmaker and Eric Williams from the low post was not movable and was an extraordinary passer when they doubled him: there was a very high quality game base. We played these three games one better than the other: the first against Montegranaro, the second with Biella and then the final against Virtus”.

The first one, against Montegranaro: 69–73, a sadistic revenge after the two losses in the league, made of sufferings but always in control, despite the many attempts to comeback led by Luca Vitali and Kiwane Garris, with Marques Green putting in a safe the access to the semifinal with the free throws of security. The second one, against Biella: 63–77, with six men in double digits and an extraordinary Daniele Cavaliero. Jerebko and Hunter can not do anything against the Irpinians, now thrown to the final. The wolf in the lair of the enemy, the Virtus Bologna pushed by his audience.

I feel a flicker in the coach’s voice when he tells me about that final, despite doing it with meticulous memory, letting the tactical dictates go hand in hand with the emotional thrust that dragged that team: “We used a very deep rotation and then, as often happened to me in such events, in the moment of maximum difficulty, with the final that was played in Bologna on the neutral field against Virtus (he laughs, ed), I prepared something that had not been “scouted”: in that year I opted for 1–3–1. When Virtus took the lead after we had been ahead in the first half, we set up the 1–3–1 against which they crashed and we managed to stem a very strong team, very well coached by Renato Pasquali, taking over the game. And then with Marques, Devin and Nikola we never left the game again. The great thing was that, taking random numbers but to understand, in the quarter-final there were 200 Avellinesi, in the semifinal 1500 and during the final they would have been 3000: an exodus, an involvement by the extraordinary audience. This summer it happened, during my mountain retreat in Friuli with Udine, that three guests of the hotel from Avellino came to greet me: we remembered with joy that moment, which for the city has remained in history”.

“You’ve been coaching for 25 years and you dream of something like that” (Ciamillo-Castoria)

If you look at the bulletin board of a historic society fallen into the abyss as Avellino, that trophy is the only one conquered by the Irpinians in basketball. A trophy arrived with the inertia of the moment, with the protagonists (Marques Green and Devin Smith) arrived as “market opportunities” and transformed into fundamental pieces of a winning puzzle. Marques - who at the end of the game spends these words to the microphones - talks with regret of that season, a bittersweet feeling: “Do you know what’s crazy? We talk about this often with Devin: when you’re in something, you don’t know how great it is, until it’s over. And so we enjoy the time there, but I don’t think we really embraced like we should had. We were all young, it was good while we were in it and it felt good to win. Matteo was great with us, we had a lot of days off which was good (he laughs, ed). I spent a lot of time there with my family, but I wished I could have enjoyed it even more. It hit us after the season: in June we had a cook out all together with all families. This was a really good season, it was fun. We had some ups and downs but you can’t go back in time, that’s the unfortunate part. So guys: enjoy the moment, enjoy the moment”.


Avellino returns home from Casalecchio di Reno with an extra Italian Cup and many less insecurities. The team is there and is full of elements that complement each other, but the feeling is that without the conductor who directs the white wagon on the rails the road to success can be much more tortuous than expected. And as at the beginning of the season, there are three consecutive defeats that seem to bring the Irpinians among the Earthlings: Marques has difficulty in shooting and the opposing defenses make it clear that they have put many more eyes on him.

Somehow, however, that seems to be the season of fate: in the last eight in regular season, comes only a defeat at the hands of Milan. The other challenges seem like walks, with Marques Green going in double with points (15) and rebounds (12!) against Naples, then serving 16 assists against Benetton Treviso. A performance that makes me doubtful: no big European knocked at the door of AIR Avellino for him during the season, all the more so after the success in the Coppa Italia? Coach Boniciolli makes it clear: “During the year, there was no one who made any offers, and neither did his agents called us to say “let’s go somewhere”. Since Marques was and is an intelligent man, and the recognition that his university has recently given him confirms that, he understood that every extra minute spent with that working group would have been an investment, as it actually happened, for the rest of his career. I don’t mean to be silly, but if what Bogdan Tanjević (coach of Fenerbahce until 2010, three years before the beginning of the era of Zeljiko Obradovic, ed) told me was true at the time, he went to earn ten times what he earned in Avellino: and ten times it’s a lot of stuff, eh!”.

Yeah, because the high-level European basketball call finally comes in. Avellino placed third in the championship finding an historic and unique qualification in Euroleague, but Marques Green will not play with the Campanians. They want him at Fenerbahce, where he goes to share the locker room with a legend like Mirsad Türkcan, a former NBA veteran like Gordan Giriček and a very young Enes Kanter. He won’t play a lot and his experience in Turkey will last only a year, before returning later with TED Ankara in 2014/2015. In the middle, the call from Italy, now a second homeland for him. He will play for Pesaro, Milan, Sassari - where he will win another Italian Cup in 2014 together with the Diener cousins and Caleb Green, beating in order Olimpia, Reggio Emilia and Siena -, Venice, Piacenza and Jesi.

He will play in love with our championship and tied to his fans: “The passion of the fans has always tied me to the Italian championship. I think I said it in my earlier years in Italy: you go to any arena, any game, it doesn’t matter where you at. The fans are so passionate it makes you feel the energy, making you play better. Even if the fans are against you. That’s not in every country, so it feels good to play in Italy”.

Another one (Ciamillo-Castoria)

But he certainly didn’t make certain decisions on his own. He always had a great helper to accompany him in his choices: “Jesus helped me, this is kinda like the route of my life. When teams come and contact me, I’m always speaking to the Lord as far as which direction should I go: “Should I take it, should I not?”. And it’s really that simple: “Hey, is it here where you want me to go? Cool, there’s no problem”. Everywhere I’ve been I meet great people and I’m around great people and it’s not a coincidence. Even if I’m not, I learn from it. So, your job is just to be obbedient, a servant and follow his path”. Blessed.

Marques Green was a Wolf

In the list of teams he played for in Italy, I deliberately omitted Avellino. Yes, because after attempting the Fenerbahce road (and marrying for a few months the cause of Cedevita Zagreb in 2012), the air of home has returned to be heard around Marques Green.

The city that welcomed him in his first Italian experience, the one that has embraced him on other occasions: from 2010 to 2012 after Pesaro, from 2015 to 2017 after the TED Ankara. A special place, which he describes like this: “Avellino was the first city that I came into Italy. I was already playing professionally, but it has always been a special city to me. I still have a lot of friends there. It’s a small town, very family-oriented; they know my family too. It was just great, and it’s also the place where my oldest son was born, my first of four sons (all with the name that begins with the letter L, ed). It’s definetely a special place: met some great people there, like I said. I won the Italian Cup there and one of my teammates it’s one of my best friends now: Devin Smith. Of course it’s gorgeous there, in the south of Italy”.

Return home for Marques Green (Ciamillo-Castoria)

Avellino that, after a 2008/2009 season that will be packaged in the annals of the recent past in the Italian basketball scene, has remained in the heart of Matteo Boniciolli, who also tries to explain to me the closeness that has been created between his point guard and an environment among the warmest there were in Serie A: “The reality is that in the cities where you win a lot, the champions who brought the victories will always be remembered with pleasure by the public. In a city where less has been won from a sporting point of view, it is clear that the protagonists of that enterprise have remained in the collective imagination. Avellino is a city with a great and sincere passion for basketball”.

A city with great and sincere passion, in which Marques Green will return at times - and where he marked the record of assists (20, yes you read correctly) in a single match of the Coppa Italia, in 2011 against Milan -, interspersing experiences in other teams where he has always maintained the same level of performance: “From that moment on, I left and Marques went to Fenerbahce: from there he played a career of the highest level, from Sassari to Milan and often being called to remedy situations. I think that only in Pesaro he was called immediately to recompose that wonderful couple with Eric Williams, thanks to which we had found very important results, because it should not be forgotten that that year we also reached the third place in the championship, which meant Euroleague. I mean, the Euroleague!”.

Ah, do you remember that we previously put aside Norristown and its twinning with Montella? Well, retrieve this information. This small urban center of about seven thousand souls, 560 meters above sea level and surrounded by chestnut forests, is in fact in Irpinia. In the province of? Avellino. Everything comes back.

Marques Green, a simple man

Boniciolli’s “marketing” move eventually worked. If there was a way to go back in time to ask a sample of young Avellino who was the most important person for them at that particular juncture of their lives, probably the answer would not have been “my girlfriend”, “my/father/mother” or “Riccardo Maniero”, in that moment football bomber of the US Avellino. “Marques Green” would have been in all likelihood the answer. Coach Boniciolli, while I thank him because our chat goes towards the conclusion, tries to explain to me why: “Marques was a player who has always exercised on fans and teammates a resounding magnetism. I remember that at the beginning of the season, when Nikola Radulovic arrived, accustomed to the basketball of the former Yugoslavia with a tradition of a certain kind, seeing this 168 cm point guard, he told me: “Matthew, who the fuck did you get?”. After two weeks, he was in love with Marques Green. Because he had control over the whole team, with incredible passing times, in the sense that anyone who was free would get the ball in his hand not a second before and not a second later. High-level three-point shooter, only when needed and when the system didn’t work. And then above all, and this was an exciting thing both from a technical and emotional point of view, in that year they tried to bring it all in the low post, but there was nobody who put him in difficulty”.

In short, Marques Green was a bit of everything: offensive catalyst, great defender on and off the ball, stealer as few in our championship, egregious passer - will end the career with 1446 key steps for teammates, in the Olympus of the playmakers where they militate names like Riccardo Pittis, Andrea Cinciarini and Gianmarco Pozzecco - and sometimes rebounder of confidence. I’m curious, however, to know which feature of his game excited him the most: “Personally, I preferred giving assist. It was kinda like playing chess in a sense, to be able to break down the defense and find the open person: it gave me more thrills. But many times I had to do whatever the team needed me to do, rather be either on defense or just controlling the game making assists or even scoring. The main thing is that I just wanted to make myself available on whatever the team needed”.

Closing the technical parenthesis and slightly opening the human one, it happens that at a certain point of our meeting on Zoom, between a time zone and the other, I remember one of the perhaps most trivial questions I had prepared, but necessary in an interview with an American player who decides to spend his professional career across the Ocean. My question is how hard it was to stay away from home: “The difficulties were just being away from home, a different culture and lifestyle. At first: I always say I played in France but I didn’t live in France, cause I didn’t take in the culture and all of the things. I was so young, I didn’t go anywhere and I just stayed in the apartment and went to the games. But then, once I got to Turkey I met some great people there, some americans who were working there, I really started to embrace the european culture in different places. And from there I really took in to the natives, the city, the people and everything like that. So my experience in Europe was wonderful, I tell people that all the time. I have no complains, it really fit my lifestyle: a very chill one, just family and relax. Also there were a lot of things to do, I had a lot of fun with friends and family there. So I got the best of both worlds. It was perfect for me”. A great player, a simpler (family) man. That’s it.

I don’t have much more to ask to Marques Green, the one I never hid being one of my basketball idols. I don’t show it, but I’m visibly excited. I only have one simple last question: “Marques, do you miss basketball?”. “It’s weird. I do have my moments, I do have my moments. They come and go, it’s not often. I miss the preparation for the game, the scouting report, the videos, the bus ride, the nervousness of not knowing if you’re gonna play good or not. Did I eat everything the right way, did I strecth properly, did I do everything I need to be mentally ready? And even with all of that, still playing bad: I miss that! (he laughs, ed). I’m coaching a little bit now, so it’s helpful, but that life is over. It can be tough, because you can’t go back to it, there’s nothing you can do about it”. Not happy, I press him: “So do you miss it, Marques?”. “Sometimes I do miss it, for sure”.

Avellino at the top, Marques Green in Paradise (Ciamillo-Castoria)



Cesare Milanti

22 years old, 2 books, 1 Erasmus in Bilbao. Here some non-basketball related stuff (in italian) and the translations of some of my basketball articles.