Bruno Cerella made his Turkish Airlines Euroleague debut last season by helping EA7 Emporio Armani Milan reach the playoffs for the first time. Cerella makes a habit of helping. The Argentine native is the founder of Slums Dunk, a five-year-old non-profit organization whose aim is to improve through basketball the hopes of children and youth living in some of the largest slums in Africa. Find out more at http://slumsdunk.wordpress.com/ and follow Bruno's blog this season on Euroleague.net!
Let's talk a little basketball first. After all, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan is in the so-called "group of death", Group C of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season. The truth is that this is a very balanced group and any of the six teams will have the chance to make the Top 16. From my point of view, Barcelona is more fully fused together than the rest of the teams and they also have lots of talent on their roster. It will depend on how each team grows in this short phase, so short that even a single shot can leave you out of the Top 16. We are working very hard and the team grows day by day. I hope that we can make the Top 16 and that this difficult group we are in ends up being the best way to progress in the 2014-15 Euroleague.
No two seasons are the same. Last year, we won respect from all European teams because we demonstrated ourselves throughout the season to be a very competitive team with great personality. Unfortunately, at the most important moment, Alessandro Gentile got injured and Keith Langford was just back from a month-long injury. This year, we will have to demonstrate the same things again — game by game, with results and our identity — that we are a team that can compete against the big boys and that people will talk about us again. Last year was very good and we had lots of fun, but today, that's is in the past.
So far, we have a 2-3 record and we've shown some signs of proving ourselves again. A very important game for us was the one that we won in Munich, because winning on the road in this difficult group is worth double. In that game, the team demonstrated that we are solid. We wanted to win it from the first minute, and it ended up happening. We have a lot of work to do and we have to grow a lot more as we start the second leg, in which having three games that we play at home could make the difference, of course. It is a great chance for us and we have to make the most of it. Whenever I am not working on basketball, you can usually find me working on Slums Dunk. I dedicate a big part of my life to this project. I generally spend my days off in contact with the people that work with me and also with the people who help sustain us. We spend time organizing several initiatives together with clubs, photographers, journalists, contributors, organizing the future of the project itself and taking care of the bureaucratic and logistical parts of it. In a nutshell, we try to make the whole project advance a little step every day. During road trips with the team, I live with my laptop on, doing many of these things, which is also a way to make the trips better and more productive. During those free moments, I dedicate my mind 100 percent to Slums Dunk.
One of my most important off-season duties is to keep the lines of communication open with our coaches in Kenya, who are responsible for our basketball academy there. We write to each other constantly and, when possible, we also Skype together. Plus we have our right-hand man, Luca Marchina, who lives in Nairobi and who, since we first set foot in Kenya, gave us support and helped us to take the project forward, together with Tamara Littame, who is now in Sudan. We always have news about the kids, the comings and goings of the basketball academy, and the activities beyond basketball that we organize for them, such as meeting with professionals like dentists, nutritionists or doctors. There are also sports management courses for coaches and directors, plus many other things.
There is a lot to keep track of from far away, since we have many kids and the time I can dedicate to them by being with them in Kenya is not much, only 15 to 20 days per year. We think that the most important thing to give them is the chance to play sports and educate them on the court, where human values are always at the base of the pyramid. Our dream is not to discover the next Michael Jordan, but to make our small contribution to create new opportunities, improve the quality of life of the kids, and educate through sports in a place where everyday obstacles seem larger as time goes by.
That's all for now. Talk soon!