In Aviano, building cultural bridges through basketball
DODDS-Europe boys basketball teams from Aviano and Vicenza will spend the weekend learning valuable lessons in both basketball and statesmanship.
The two Italy based American schools will share a court with Croatian youth club team Rijeka in a series of three games Friday and Saturday at Aviano High School. Here’s the schedule:
- Friday, 1830: Rijeka vs. Aviano
- Saturday, 1000: Rijeka vs. Vicenza
- Saturday, 1500: Rijeka vs. Aviano
Aviano head coach Ken McNeely – known as Coach Mac to anyone associated with European youth basketball over the last three decades – made contact with Rijeka’s coaches while running youth clinics together in Croatia. The idea for a mutually beneficial set of games occurred to both of them, and they worked to make it a reality.
Basketball is not merely incidental to the event; McNeely is excited at the prospect of his Saints being tested by “a really great basketball team” ahead of its Dec. 14 DODDS opener against American Overseas School of Rome.
But sportsmanship and cultural understanding are the weekend’s guiding principles. Parents of Aviano students are hosting Rijeka players in their homes for the weekend, and the three teams will share a communal meal before the Croatian team departs Saturday evening.
“I want them to have an opportunity to meet other kids from other places,” McNeely said. “I think that’s what’s important.”