DURHAM, N.H. – Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.), a sophomore on the University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team, was named one of 12 members of the United States men’s basketball team that will compete at the 18th Maccabiah Games in Israel from July 12-23, 2009. The announcement was recently made by the head coach of the U.S. men’s basketball Maccabiah team, Bruce Pearl, who is also the men’s basketball head coach at the University of Tennessee.
“Dane is a big man who can really move his feet,” Pearl said. “He’s willing to bang and score when called upon. He’s a terrific young man who will represent his country and UNH extremely well when we travel to Israel this summer.”
The Maccabiah Games, also referred to as the “Jewish Olympics,” are held in Israel every four years and include the top Jewish athletes from around the world. The 17th games in 2005 attracted the largest Maccabiah attendance in history. With over 50 countries represented by 7,700 athletes, including 900 from the U.S., the Maccabiah Games became the third largest sporting event in the world. This year, the U.S. is looking to take over 1,000 athletes, including Olympic athletes such as swimmers Dara Torres and Jason Lezak.
“I’m excited to go out and represent my religion, as well as my country,” DiLiegro said. “And obviously I want to bring some gold back to UNH.”
DiLiegro becomes the sixth UNH athlete to participate in the Maccabiah Games, including the first basketball player.
“We’re very proud of Dane for making the Maccabiah team,” Bill Herrion, head coach of the UNH men’s basketball team, said. “It is a tremendous opportunity for him, both basketball-wise and culturally. We think this is something that could really help his development as a player in the future.”
DiLiegro traveled to Knoxville, Tenn., in June to partake in the two-a-day tryouts for four days. DiLiegro was one of about 40 players at the tryout, including the only college big man.
The 6-foot-8-inch, 240-pound center anxiously called U.S. assistant coach Harris Adler in early September to find out if there was any news on whether or not he had made the team. Adler told him not to worry and about a week later DiLiegro received a letter in the mail letting him know he had made the team.
“Dane plays real hard offensively,” Adler, an assistant coach at LaSalle University, said. “He’s very physical and tough and he’s a rugged rebounder on both the offensive and defensive end. Having a post player is very important in international play and being a tough, hard-nosed post player is probably Dane’s best attribute, on top of his good leadership qualities.”
DiLiegro joins Duke’s Jon Scheyer and Arizona State’s Derek Glasser on the team, which won gold in 2001 and bronze at the previous Games in 2005. By making the U.S. squad, DiLiegro joins some elite company, including Dolph Schayes, one of the 50 Greatest NBA players of all-time, Hall of Fame basketball coach Larry Brown, and Mark Spitz, who won a then-record seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, an achievement surpassed only when Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal of the 2008 Olympics.
“There aren’t that many Jewish athletes out there, so I want to let everyone know that we can compete with the best in the world,” DiLiegro said.
All athletes, coaches and trainers who participate in the Maccabiah Games must make a monetary commitment to the program. The obligation or “Yachad,” meaning “together” in Hebrew, is shared among all participants.
DiLiegro must raise $3,300 in order to take part in the Games.
“I’m excited to do my part and do what I have to do to help us win,” DiLiegro said. “It is something I can look back on and be proud of.”