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'It just started vanishing': Heartbreaking case of Maccabi deja vu

Posted: 06-Jul-2019 by PanAm Games 2019

For 18 months, basketballer Ben Grosman has been dreaming of pulling on the green and gold at the 2019 Maccabi Pan-American Games.

But an inexplicable twist of fate has delivered a crushing blow to the open men’s star, ruling him out of the event – and at one point even putting his hopes of even boarding the plane to Mexico in jeopardy.

Back in April, Grosman suddenly fell ill. To this day, the diagnosis of the ailment that cruels his Maccabi dream remains a mystery. Some doctors believe he’s suffering from encephalitis, others say its viral meningitis – the viral brain infection left the 24-year-old hospitalised for roughly 10 days.

“Leading up into Pan-Ams I was super excited, all my friends and I agreed to go and do it, and basketball is like our life and everything – it was awesome,” Grosman said.

Open basketballer Ben Grosman has been ruled out of the Pan-Am Games

“And then, unfortunately, like two months ago on April 26 I got sick with I don’t know what and after a while it got really bad and I had some viral brain infection. All of a sudden, I was like ‘damn, is Pan-Ams gonna happen anymore?’ That quickly it just started vanishing.”

For a while, it seemed unlikely he would even make it to the Games. Grosman only received medical clearance to fly just weeks before the tournament was set to tip-off. He was ‘over the moon’ to be able to join his teammates and describes that news as ‘the best I had gotten in such a long time.’

But ultimately, the sidelined baller takes an off-court role with a heavy heart after being appointed an assistant to coach Al Westover for the tournament he so longed to play in.

“I’m in two minds about it,” Grosman said.

“One is I’m grateful to even be in this position where I’m in Mexico and get to be here with my team and get to help them in other ways off the court. But on the other hand, I can’t help but just feel sorry for myself sometimes and just be like god I’ve been waiting for this for so long, I’ve been so excited, and to just have it taken away for no apparent reason that I can work out.

“I don’t know how I got sick, and right now I’m at a point where I feel physically healthy, I feel almost at 100%. I want to be able to play basketball and help my teammates and feel really part of the team but I can’t but feel a little bit on the outside.

“And my teammates don’t treat me like that at all, neither do my team manager or coach, but it comes internally from knowing that I can’t physically be on the court helping them, which is just upsetting.”

You can’t really blame him for feeling unlucky. Especially considering this isn’t even the first time an injury has cruelly ended his dreams of representing Maccabi internationally. Grosman was meant to head to the Maccabiah Games back in 2017, but a broken foot ended that adventure before it began.

And now two years later, a similar – and even more frustrating – fate befalls him.

The Open Men's Basketball team

Unfortunately, it couldn’t happen to a less deserving guy. Grosman is one of the great Maccabi success stories – he never attended a Jewish school and now credits his sense of community to the organisation.

“Maccabi is huge,” he said.

“I didn’t go to a Jewish school ever, I didn’t have many Jewish friends. I’d say now 75% of my closest friends are Jewish, where in the past I maybe had one or two who went to my school or something.

“It’s just been incredibly welcoming and feels so supportive to know you’re always going to have people by your side, backing you in every aspect of life. It’s just incredible. We’re really lucky to be a part of it.”

Grosman is backing his teammates to perform in Mexico, utilising their supercharged team chemistry and ‘next level’ offensive nous to take down their opposition. The Open Men’s basketball team begin their Pan-Ams campaign with a clash against Mexico on Sunday.