Feb. 14, 2007
Junior forward Matt Zitani’s biggest victory has come off of the playing field.
Before playing basketball for Florida State, Zitani was a competitive baseball pitcher, but unfortunately a shoulder injury impeded his baseball future. That injury might have seemed like a difficult bump in the road, but it did not compare to the adversity he faced his freshman year of college.
During his first year at Indian River Community College Zitani began to experience frequent headaches, and eventually his mother convinced him to see a doctor. After getting an MRI, Zitani was immediately informed that he had a tumor in his brain. The severity of his situation demanded immediate surgery.
“After the MRI they rushed me to the hospital,” Zitani said. “I got the MRI on a Thursday but because of limited staff they didn’t want to do my surgery on the weekend. I was put on antibiotics and they did my surgery on Monday.”
Facing many uncertainties, Zitani managed to remain in good spirits.
“I was the most positive person throughout my surgery,” Zitani said. “I was calming everybody else down.”
Zitani’s admirable optimistic personality aided him through a successful surgery and a rapid recovery.
Once again he did not allow his tumor to restrain him. After the procedure Zitani was expected to miss four months of school, but his persistence and determination found him back in the classroom in just two short months, and working out only a month after that.
“My doctor told me I couldn’t go out of my house for four months, and I told him he was nuts,” Zitani said. “Then when I was finally able to exercise, I went all out from the moment I started. I just wanted to get back in shape – to get back to where I was.”
His hard work did not cease and one year after his surgery Zitani was shooting baskets when the head coach of his community college approached him.
“I was in the gym with of my best friends at the time, and the basketball coach came up and asked me to come out to try-outs,” Zitani said. “If it wasn’t for him getting me to play ball again, I wouldn’t be playing here.”
Zitani tried out for the team, and earned himself a spot.
During his career at Indian River Community College, he helped IRCC reach the state Junior College Tournament in 2005. After receiving his Associates degree, Zitani transferred to Florida State and became an important role player. He made his debut as a Seminole in their victory over Jacksonville, and scored his first basket of his career against Purdue on a nationally televised game on espn2.
He has already appeared in eight games, including one against ACC foe, Miami. Although Zitani continues to contribute on the court, it is his “team” mentality and attitude that undeniably stands out.
He is the definition of a team player, and is willing to make any sacrifice for the success of his team. His primary goal of the season is, “to do whatever it takes to get to the tournament. If it’s being here 24-7 in the gym with my teammates trying to help them out, I will do it.”
His defeat over his tumor has certainly helped shape the type of player and person that he has grown to be.
“I know not to take myself and the situation for granted. I know I don’t have a big role on the court, but I try to impact the team as much as I possibly can by making good decisions. I try to help my teammate out as best as I can.”
Matt Zitani Quick Facts: Nickname: Zits Biggest Fear: Heights Shoe Size: 15 Dwyane Wade or Lebron James?: Wade Favorite television show: Sports Center Favorite sport other than basketball: Baseball Favorite NBA team: Miami heat
By Melissa Wheeler FSU Sports Information