Nico Mannion was just 3 years old the last time Italy competed in an Olympic basketball game. The Warriors guard took the floor with the Italians on Saturday night in the team's Tokyo Olympics opener, and scored 10 points in helping lead the nation to a 92-82 win over Germany.
Mannion wasn't one of the top scorers, but did dish out a game-high seven assists in the victory. Perhaps this summer's experience as the primary ballhandler competing against some of the world's best players will give him added confidence going into his second season with the Warriors.
Over his time in the G League bubble with the Santa Cruz Warriors, Mannion averaged 6.9 assists over 33.1 minutes in nine appearances. Against NBA competition and with the Warriors pursuing a playoff spot late in the season, Mannion's playing time was much less consistent, but he managed to average 2.4 assists after he returned to the Golden State bench.
The German team Mannion and Italy beat was no slouch, as it featured multiple NBA players, including former first-round draft pick Moe Wagner.
Italy's road gets significantly tougher after defeating the Germans, however, as they still have Australia and Nigeria to face in group play.
Those two teams just so happen to be the same two countries that beat the Americans in exhibitions before the Olympics got underway.
Australia's backcourt features several high-level NBA players including Patty Mills, Matisse Thybulle and Dante Exum. Nigeria has Josh Okogie and Gabe Vincent in the backcourt, both of whom logged significant NBA minutes last season.
The tests will get tougher for Mannion, but each and every game Italy plays only stands to benefit the young guard when he steps on the court for the Warriors in 2021-22.