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A truly inspiring continental championship

CM 29/04/2021

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Ness Ziona is a European Champion. Yes, you read correctly.
Unheralded Ness Ziona has captured a continental title after winning the FIBA Europe Cup over Arged BM Slam Stal from Poland earlier this week in front of over 5,000 delirious fans in Tel Aviv.
Who would have ever thought way back in September, when the league’s training camps were ramping up for the 2020/21 season, that the most successful team in Europe thus far would be from the small city of 50,000 residents just outside of Tel Aviv?
How in the world is it possible that Ness Ziona, which only began play in Israel’s top division back in 2013/14 and just started to take part in European competitions in 2017/18, was able to make such a large leap in such a short period of time?
The answer is quite simple – heart and soul, embodied by team captain Tal Dunne, who played his formative years with the club and is a battle-tested warrior while being a symbol of true resilience.
Dunne is the perfect role model of what hard work, drive and desire can accomplish.
The 34-year-old big man played the entire Final Four with a partial cast to protect a hand injury and then had to wear a wrap around his head after having incurred a laceration just minutes into the semifinal. He made sure that nothing would stand in his way to hoist the championship trophy high in the air to the delight of the fans.

“I can’t describe the emotional feelings that are going through me,” he said immediately after the victory. “It’s an unbelievable feeling, it’s insane. We did it for the club, we did it for the fans, we did it for the city. I am so proud.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that one day we would win a European Championship in Tel Aviv in front of 5,000 fans from Ness Ziona.”
Dunne was born in Wales and at the age of three moved with his family to Rishon Lezion. Very quickly the 6-foot-6 (1.98m) power forward joined the Maccabi Rishon Lezion youth teams, but then moved to Ness Ziona in 2008 and helped the club move up to the first division just a few years later.
Together with head coach Nadav Zilberstein, Dunne was surrounded by the late Tyler Honeycutt, Cory Carr and Preston Knowles in the club’s first year in the Premier League while former NBA three-point Champion Daequan Cook was the team’s anchor during the first few campaigns in the FIBA Europe Cup.
After more than half a decade in charge of Ness Ziona, Zilberstein was replaced on the sidelines by Brad Greenberg, who along with general manager Meir Tapiro, put together a team for this campaign that looked like it could do some damage on paper. However, in reality the club had a miserable start – going 1-5 out of the gate in the Israeli domestic league, which meant changes needed to be made swiftly.
Out went three of the four foreigners and in came Braian Angola, Jerome Meyinsse and Wayne Selden in their places right around the international break in November. The trio joined the stalwart captain Dunne, Patrick Miller – the only holdover from the new signings over the summer – along with Nimrod Levi, who rejoined coach Greenberg after playing for him on a number of occasions, and up-and-coming forward Lior Carreira.
As the team began to gel during the winter months, Ness Ziona headed to Poland for the group stage of the Europe Cup, where it quickly found its footing and advanced to the round-of-16 with a 2-1 record, the only blemish coming to its ultimate final rival Arged BM Slam Stal.
It was then on to Holland, where Greenberg – who had been an assistant coach for the Knicks and the Clippers in the NBA and was the general manager who drafted Allen Iverson with the Philadelphia 76ers – continued to masterfully navigate the European landscape as Ness Ziona disposed of Kyiv and Iraklis to help make its way to the Final Four.
VTB side Parma was up next in the semifinals, where Ness Ziona needed a game-winning three-pointer from former NBA swingman Wayne Selden to send the team into the championship game.
Dunne, who despite not scoring in the final, led by example by grabbing the game’s first rebound, dribbled up the floor and then collected the first assist to Meyinsse, who dunked the ball with authority to get Ness Ziona off and running. He finished the game with two rebounds, four assists and a steal in just under 15 minutes, but was clearly the team’s emotional leader.
This is just the first step, Dunne wanted to point out.
“We will keep moving forward and we want to achieve more. We started from the bottom but we want to achieve greatness.”
The trophy that Dunne lifted was the same that Maccabi Tel Aviv had hoisted back in 1977, when the yellow-and-blue won its first European title. Other than the color now being silver instead of gold, Ness Ziona has the first piece of hardware for its trophy case.
Perhaps this is a sign or more to come for the club.
However, right now Dunne will head for surgery as his domestic season comes to an end. But as modest as ever, he didn’t want to be seen as a hero.
“I played injured and after this game my season is over as I will have surgery. I received permission from the doctor to play and there was no way I was going to sit on the sidelines in jeans and clap my hands. This in my mind was never an option.
“I wanted to show the children of Ness Ziona that they should be proud, but I am no hero. Everyone called me a hero, but I am just a basketball player. The real hero is this child who helped me lift the trophy. He had a deadly form of cancer a year ago and he is the true winner after being cured.

“My message to everyone out there is: Never give up, follow your dreams and do everything to make them come true.”  Source: Jerusalem Post

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The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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