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48 hours later: Amazing Pan-Am Games squad miracle

Posted: 13-Jun-2019 by PanAm Games 2019

Just over a month before they were due to board a plane to Mexico for the Maccabi Pan-American Games, disaster struck for Australia’s Youth Basketball team.

A serious ankle injury ruled co-captain Guy Sidelman out of the tournament, rocking the playing group and leaving them with just a few weeks to fill the void.

Incredibly, it took less than 48 hours.

After frantically scouring the Jewish basketball ranks, the perfect solution emerged.

Melbourne-based Nicholas Taranto, a rising star in the Big V Youth League, was identified as the man for the job – within a few days he was already training with the squad.

The Youth Boys Basketball team for the Pan-American Games

“We searched everywhere and within two days we got him,” said team manager Danny Klinger.

“Giselle [Berlinski] actually found him, I think through the basketball club, we had a chat about it and thought he was a great fit. We went and met him and his dad, and it sort of all came together really within about 24 hours.

“We did it on the Friday and the following Wednesday he was already training with the Melbourne boys. He’s fitted in really well, and he speaks Spanish which is fantastic. It’s actually really nice. A pretty ordinary story turned into a good story.”

Unfortunately, Sidelman requires surgery after damaging ligaments in his ankle, a blow that’s left Beck Rosen – one of two team members from Sydney - as the sole captain of the nine-strong squad.

Initially, Rosen was frustrated by the loss of one of the team’s best players, but Taranto’s arrival has erased any qualms as the team prepare to take on rivals from USA, Mexico, Colombia and Israel in July.

“My initial reaction was disappointed but also worried, because that’s minus one of our better players,” Rosen said.

“I talked to everyone else on the team and they were really nervous… but then after getting Nico, it was like ‘oh well he fills that spot perfectly’ and he’s also really versatile and can move around so that really benefited us. That was an upside.”

Now the sole skipper of the side, Rosen plans to lean on Sidelman’s expertise for advice during the tournament, despite the fact he won’t be able to join the team on court. It’s another example of the long-distance communication that has helped to bond these outfit during their preparations.

They’ve come together as a full squad just twice leading into Mexico, spending a pair of training days down in Melbourne, but that won’t be a problem for a team who clicked from day dot.

Youth Basketball captain Beck Rosen shows off his playing strip

“I keep in contact with all the guys on the team so that ensures we don’t lose touch,” Rosen said.

“We talk frequently, we run through the plays, we joke around to build chemistry. In regards to team cohesion, it was there since day one. After coming back from a two month break and training with them, everyone was cooperative. The guys know what their roles are, they work hard, there’s no problems.”

Coached by former Melbourne Tigers NBL star Warrick Giddey, this strong group of Aussie ballers are also a squad brimming with Maccabi connection. Harry Carp will be joined in Mexico by his father Barry who will compete in masters swimming, meanwhile Jarrod Waislitz’s dad Avee is the lone cyclist on the Aussie team.

It’s also a special occasion for manager Klinger, whose daughter Halli will also be representing in the pool. For Klinger, this event represents a return to the international Maccabi scene that’s been 22 years in the making.

He wore the green and gold at the tragic Maccabiah Games of 1997, winning a gold medal for cricket. But since then, his involvement has been limited to Maccabi Victoria cricket as well as three Junior Carnivals, but now he’s back to manage this Youth Basketball outfit.

After pulling off one of the great Maccabi selection miracles, their sights will now firmly be on taking down their rivals over in Mexico.