MONROE – When Giulia Belinazzi decided to leave her home near Venice, Italy and become a foreign-exchange student in the United States, the 5-foot-7 senior said one of her goals was to play high school basketball.
Landing at Parkwood High School has been a plus for Belinazzi and the Rebels girls’ basketball team.
Belinazzi has stepped in and become a key player for a Rebels team that is 12-2 overall and 3-2 in the rugged Southern Carolina Conference as of Jan. 8. Parkwood was elevated from Class 2A to Class 3A this school year.
Belinazzi is averaging 3.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists a game for the Rebels. She said the competition in the United States has helped improve her game.
“The atmosphere is so different,” Belinazzi said. “It is more intense, high energy. In Europe, we have a dream to come here and play American basketball. I decided to become an exchange student because I wanted to try a new experience. This is also a chance to meet new people.”
Parkwood head girls’ basketball coach Brian Morris said Belinazzi has adapted well at the high school. Despite coming off the bench, Belinazzi is fourth on the team in minutes played this season.
“She always has a smile on her face,” Morris said. “It also helps that she is a very good basketball player, too. Her basketball IQ is probably the second highest on our team right now. Right off the bat, I saw that she is a tremendous interior passer. She makes passes that you don’t think are going to happen. There has been some chemistry right off the bat and it has grown with the rest of them.”
When Belinazzi applied to become a foreign exchange student, she didn’t even know what state she would be attending school. Belinazzi was excited when she found out she was headed to basketball-rich North Carolina.
“North Carolina for basketball is the best,” Belinazzi said. “My brother also came to North Carolina as an exchange student and he liked it.”
Belinazzi said she has felt at home since stepping on the court at Parkwood.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Belinazzi said. “I love my teammates. They treat me like part of the family. I’m just so thankful that I came here and I have them as teammates. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I have enjoyed everything here.”
Morris said he has been impressed with the way his players have involved Belinazzi in off-the-court activities.
“They all went Black Friday shopping and she has actually got to meet some of the girls that have played here (at Parkwood) in the past,” Morris said. “We have a good team-oriented group this year. They did Samaritans Purse and we did a holiday party at my house. We have also had some obstacles with a sick parent this year and the girls have come together to help that girl on our team.
“They have enjoyed having Giulia on the team, and they are learning from her. It’s just not her learning from them. They are learning about Giulia’s culture.”