It’s quite amazing to think that less than ten years ago Nes Ziona made its debut in Israel’s top division under head coach Nadav Zilberstein and here they are competing for a European title just a few years after beginning to play continental ball.
Not only are they on the cusp of something unimaginable after downing Parma 81-80 thanks to a game wining 3-pointer by Wayne Selden in the FIBA Europe Cup semifinal in Tel Aviv, but to think as to how far this team has come in such a short period of time.
The 2013/14 squad, the first team to play in the Premier League had the likes of the late Tyler Honeycutt, Cory Carr and Preston Knowles while Daequan Cook was the team’s anchor during the first few campaigns in the FIBA Europe Cup.
With a change on the sidelines to begin this current campaign, Brad Greenberg put together a team that looked like it could do some damage on paper, but in reality they had a miserable start going 1-5 out of the gate in the Israeli domestic league which meant changes needed to be made and made swiftly.
Out went Davion Berry, Jordan Murphy and Kwan Cheatham and in came Braian Angola, Jerome Meyinsse and Wayne Selden in their places right around the international break in November. The trio joined stalwart captain Tal Dunne who had been with the team for years, Patrick Miller the only holdover from the new signings over the summer along with Nimrod Levi who also can on board for the new campaign and Lior Carreira.
The top players always seem to show up in the big spots and it was as clear as day that this game would be dominated by the one with the most natural talent, one Wayne Selden. The Roxbury, Massachusetts native arrived in Israel after having featured in 124 NBA games with Memphis, Chicago and New Orleans and just began showing his true potential this past week in a dominating win over Hapoel Haifa in which he scored 25 points. It was as if he was just getting the engine ready to go for the Final Four as he almost matched that total against Parma scoring 24 points in a dominant performance on a day that began with a shock as Terrence Clarke who was also from the Boston suburbs was killed in a car accident just ahead of the NBA Draft.
“I woke up about 6:30 to some text messages and I was in shock didn’t know how to react. My mind was racing. Terrence is a little brother to me and it’s tough on the community. I knew I had to come out and compete, life is so precious and so I knew I had to give it my all,” he said following the win.
There’s no question that Selden gave it his all as he scored at will throughout the 40 minutes of play with a quartet of triples with the biggest coming with his team down by a pair of points and time running down.
But there was still time left on the clock for Parma to snatch the win but the Russian’s missed a couple of last ditch efforts as the Nes Ziona defense held the fort to take the win.
“This was a fiercely competitive game,” coach Greenberg said. “I give Parma a lot of credit. Extremely well coached team. We got into some foul trouble. We had to change defense a bunch.”
But at the end of the day Selden, along with Patrick Miller (15p), Braian Angola (12p) and Nimrod Levi (14p) along with Tal Dunne made all the difference. Dunne, the battle tested warrior captain who despite suffering a hand injury earlier in the week stepped on the court with a partial cast on his hand and laid it all out on the line even coming back from a bash to the head that needed to be bandaged up in the second quarter showed how much the team means to him.
“Tal is a unique playmaker from the power forward spot. He wanted to give it a shot and he then got cut. His willingness to play and his commitment to the club is phenomenal.” Greenberg said.
“Nimrod is getting more comfortable he’s a good player. I think the three he hit in the first quarter was good for his confidence. He made a couple shots around the hoop. We needed him especially when we couldn’t count on Tal as much due to his injury and Jerome Meyinsse was in foul trouble.”
Nes Ziona took a 7-point lead after ten minutes but sharpshooting from Adas Juskevicius,
Maxim Grigoryev, Boris Savovic and Lorenzo Williams, Parma came right back into the game and looked like they would be able to take the win in front of over 3,000 Nes Ziona faithful.
However, Selden wasn’t going to let that happen and finished off the VTB side in fine fashion explained Greenberg, “Wayne moved well without the ball and he was able to create some momentum for himself in that situation. Credit to Pat, Brian and Wayne.”
Nes Ziona will now ready for the Final which is slated to tipoff on Sunday at 9pm local time as they will look to make history and take home their first ever continental title. Selden will once again be the center of attention as he will look to show the continent what he can do on the big stage.