Art by Pac
|No. 55 – Arizona Whips|
|Species||Dhole ( Canidae )|
February 16, 2001|
Sesto San Giovanni, Italy
|Listed height||6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)|
|Listed weight||190 lb (86 kg)|
|FBA draft||2019 / Round: 1 / Pick: 7th overall|
|Selected by the Arizona Whips|
|Pro playing career||2019–present|
|2019 - present||Arizona Whips|
|2020 Salary||$4 million|
|2021 Salary||$4 million|
|(IC) Agent||HoVo Management|
|(OOC) Creator||Patrick Coyote|
|(OOC) Usage||Ask me before any use|
Incredibly skilled, but with a complicated past and reputation (not all his own fault), Italian phenom Tino Hazari hopes to take the FBA by storm just as he did with the European game.
Born in Sesto San Giovanni, a northern suburb of Milan, Tino was an only child of two Bangladeshi immigrants, Tariq and Hana Hazari. His father, a mid-level employee at a telecommunications firm, never pursued an athletic career himself, but found himself enamored with basketball soon upon arriving in Italy as a young man. He was especially drawn to the play of Dinamo NutRio Milano, a team then experiencing great domestic success, and their star, Italian shooting guard Valentino Rizzi (gray wolf), one of the country’s finest players of the 1990s and early 2000s.
When their son was born in 2001, the couple decided to name him Valentino, both in honor of Tariq’s favorite player and in an effort to help him “fit in” with a more typical Italian given name. Valentino Rizzi’s career was on its last legs by the time the young dhole’s basketball-viewing days began, but the younger Valentino still found himself drawn to the aging star, both through TV broadcasts and old recordings from his father as well as the occasional live game in person. The dhole played several sports growing up, as many children did, but quickly attached himself most fully to basketball, hoping to someday fill the shoes of his favorite player and join Dinamo.
Young Valentino faced a good deal of bullying from fellow students, largely for his status as an immigrant and “outsider” species, but also for his soft-spokenness and general difficulty making friends or relating with others. Perhaps due to finding himself an easy target at times, though, the dhole began to take out his aggression on the basketball court, challenging any and all comers to pickup games and usually winning. He quickly gained a reputation for roughness and aggressiveness, and developed the “win at all costs” mentality that he would continue to maintain throughout his career.
The young dhole’s reputation grew through youth camps, club teams, and other more organized means, and it wasn’t long before pro clubs came calling. Valentino was on the verge of accepting an offer to join the youth apparatus of Basket Milano, a local second-division squad, but an excellent weekend at a camp sponsored by Dinamo caught the eye of the larger club. Tino continued to shine through a further workout and trial, and found himself entering the Dinamo system at age thirteen.
Already nearing his eventual 6’5” height as a young teenager after an early growth spurt, Valentino was more physically developed than many of his youth teammates, and often played games with the squads a year or two above him. This resulted in the dhole quite often finding himself outclassed and outplayed, but he also managed to impress at times, flashing natural athleticism and a steadily improving jump shot that made him a threat to score from nearly anywhere on the court.
With his ascent through the youth system also came young Valentino’s first face-to-face interaction with his namesake, who had returned to Dinamo in an advisory role after retiring from playing. Upon meeting Rizzi as part of the group, the dhole found him a bit brusque and standoffish, but pushed it aside, seeing it as more a result of a busy schedule and an extension of the often-polarizing off-court attitude the star had possessed during his playing days.
After three years burning up the youth ranks, Valentino Hazari made his senior club debut in a preseason matchup preceding the kickoff of the 2017-2018 Italian and EFBL seasons. In his first game, an exhibition against a lower-division Italian side, the dhole accumulated 13 points and five rebounds, making him the second-leading scorer for a squad looking to spread playing time across the whole roster.
Everything seemed to be falling Valentino’s way – that is, until a stunning story jeopardized both his mental and emotional state, as well as his relationship with Dinamo. In a televised interview just days before the beginning of the season, Valentino Rizzi – who had only been asked about the team’s prospects for the upcoming season – went off on an unhinged, hateful rant. For five uninterrupted minutes, the wolf blasted “immigrants and foreigners”, claiming they were “ruining the game and ruining Italy”, and singling out Hazari as “that child…that child, who is going to wreck the team.”
Stunned, the young dhole nearly left the team, only agreeing to stay after reassurances that Rizzi would be properly punished for his rhetoric. (Rizzi was relieved of his paid ambassadorship position and unofficial assistant coaching spot, but his jersey number remained retired and his image continued to appear on historical and promotional materials.) In order to personally cope, he shortened his name (going by Tino) and changed his number from 77 (inspired by Rizzi’s #7) to 55 (5 being his mother’s favorite number). He also grew out his black hair and dyed it white, changing as much as possible “to break away from [his] old self”.
Possibly fueled again by anger and aggression, Tino made an immediate impact for Dinamo, quickly establishing himself as an important rotation player on a veteran-led squad. His efforts in the 2017-18 season earned him the Italian Young Player of the Year award, and Milano finished second in the Italian league (behind traditional powers Legion di Roma) and reached the quarterfinals of the EFBL.
Tino challenged the Italian press early in his second season (2018-2019), refusing to accept a public apology offered by Valentino Rizzi for his comments the previous year. This turned a few Milano fans (and local reporters) against the young star, but he responded with one of the finest seasons by a teenager in European history (and also refused to participate in several press conferences and interviews along the way).
A Milano team now loaded with talent locked up the Italian title with a few games to spare, giving them an opportunity to focus most of their attention on the EFBL knockout rounds. After running through Liverpool and Zagreb with relative ease in the quarterfinals and semifinals, Milano found themselves again favored (though not by much) against a Copenhagen Cygni team led by 7’6” big man Luther Kierkegaard.
The best-of-seven championship series went back and forth, Copenhagen nearly seizing control in game 6 (up 3-2) before an injury sidelined Kierkegaard. Milano took advantage, taking the sixth game and winning game 7 at home to claim their first EFBL title since back-to-back wins in 1987 and 1988. Tino finished the season as the team’s leader in points, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage, and was named MVP of the Italian league and First-Team All-EFBL.
Tino called a press conference – his first in multiple months – the day after the squad’s official victory celebration. He began by thanking his teammates and coaches, then proceeded to heavily criticize the team’s ownership and executive board, Valentino Rizzi, and the local press, baring all his feelings on his time playing in Italy. He ended the soliloquy by stating: “I have asked for and received my release from Dinamo NutRio Milano, effective immediately, and I am entering the 2019 FBA Draft.” The dhole then promptly left, not answering a single question from reporters.