KAUNAS (2012 FIBA U17 World Championship) – Who doesn’t love a good story about playing with Michael Jordan, Arvydas Sabonis or Drazen Petrovic? Or one about facing off against the original Dream Team at the 1992 Olympics? How about one recalling the experience that is carrying your nation’s flag at an Olympics Opening Ceremony?
Now imagine it’s your father telling you those stories. Well, that’s the case for a handful of stars at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship.
Australian Dante Exum has received plenty of basketball tips from his American father Cecil Exum, who played a number of years professionally in Australia. But Exum also listened to his father tell stories about playing with Jordan at the University of North Carolina.
“He tells me a lot of stories about (Jordan). My favorites are probably his stories about being on the bus with him and them messing around,” said Exum.
Exum is actually one of three Australians in Lithuania who have fathers who played the game, the others being Ben Simmons and Jack Purchase – sons of former Melbourne Tigers stars Dave Simmons and Nigel Purchase.
Stories for players and coaches
Marko Arapovic also finds himself telling his Croatian teammates about his father Franjo Arapovic, who played with Petrovic, Dino Radja and Toni Kukoc on the Croatian team in the 1992 Olympics Final against the Dream Team.
“I watched the videos of 1992 Olympics and I got this feeling like 'wow, that’s my dad, he dunked on Magic Johnson'. It was unbelievable. I can’t describe that feeling. It’s indescribable,” said the younger Arapovic.
But it’s not only the players listening to Arapovic’s stories about his father. It’s also his coach Ante Nazor.
“That is golden experience for him, and we are happy that he can tell us about that – the young boys about that, tell me about that. It’s very, very important for us,” said Nazor, who was 23 years old when Petrovic, Radja and Kukoc won silver at Barcelona 1992.
Arapovic even has a connection to Kaunas as his father played for Zalgiris for two seasons – from 1996 to 1998 – winning the 1998 EuroCup title.
“He was in the team with (Arvydas) Sabonis. I was actually here as a baby. I was a new-born child. But I don’t have any memories. But I feel I belong here,” said Arapovic.
Egypt-Korea connection dates back to 1990
Ahmed Sayed Soliman is another U17 player who has heard great basketball stories from his father. After all, the Egyptian center’s dad – Mohamed Sayed Soliman – was the Egyptian national team captain for well over a decade and played at the 1990 FIBA World Championship as well as the 1984 and 1988 Olympics.
Soliman’s father also was Egypt’s flag bearer at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, where he also led the tournament in scoring for the last-placed Egyptians.
Soliman and Korea guard Heo Hoon actually have a connection – dating back 22 years – as Soliman’s father and Egypt played Korea and Heo’s father Hur Jae in the game for 15th place at the World Championship in Argentina.
It was also a historic game as Hur scored a tournament record 62 points.
“My father doesn’t talk a lot about his stories,” said Heo, whose father played at the 1988 and 1996 Olympics as well as the 1990 and 1994 FIBA World Championships.
NBA advice for Parker
Another player who can call about his father for tips on basketball as well as life in general is USA forward Jabari Parker, whose dad Sonny Parker played six years in the NBA for the Golden State Warriors.
Spain’s Alberto Abalde meanwhile could call up his sister Tamara Abalde, who played for Spain’s women national team at the 2008 Olympics and 2009 EuroBasket Women.
Maybe the next Jordan, Sabonis and Petrovic memories are in the process of being created in Kaunas as we speak.