This team is living the dream

This team is living the dream

Sometimes dreams really do come true. Six months ago, the Sunday Mail reported on David Yohan who was leading a group of young men in evening basketball games on an unlit court in a public park in suburban Brisbane, writes Daryl Passmore in the Sunday Mail.

The game was his way of keeping the teens, predominantly African refugees brought to Australia under humanitarian programs, out of trouble.

Playing basketball was the teens' way of dealing with the effects of trauma in their young lives – hunger, war, disease or displacement – and finding a place in their new home and culture.

They found their place just after 7pm on Friday night.

The group was centrestage at the Brisbane Basketball Association's centre in Auchenflower as they accepted trophies for winning the Under-18s division two grand final.

It was their first season in the competition.

But the victory was more than a sporting achievement. It unified an entire community.

Surrounded by a crowd of jubilant, cheering supporters, the boys performed a tribal-style victory dance.

This group of "outsiders", who initially named themselves the African Lions, were now the pride of Brisbane.

"We never thought we would play here, but now we know we can do anything," said captain Yohanna Aceil.

"I feel very happy and proud of my team and my coach. We sweated blood for this."

Coach Mr Yohan, 23, said: "They wanted to win really bad, but something they wanted more than the win was the respect of their peers and also the Brisbane basketball family."

In the changing room before Friday's night's final, Mr Yohan set the scene: "We threw a lot at you all season. You could have quit, you could have quit a lot of times, but you didn't and that's the point.

"Working as a team, not one person, is what got us here and that's what will help us win."

Mr Yohan's motivation is as much about creating great people as great players and he issued a reminder of their responsibilities: "At the end of the game, the first thing you do is shake hands with the other side, then you thank your supporters. Then you have five minutes to get downstairs and accept your trophies. If you win, you get a big one.

"Now all you have to do is go out there and do what you do best – play ball."

The players were only able to join the basketball league after the registrations were funded by Reclink, a charity encouraging sports and social participation for disadvantaged groups.

The team's name was changed to Hoop Dreamz to reflect the broadening membership which includes players from Chinese, Pacific island and Australian backgrounds.

Their shirts carry the slogan, "Many shades, one shadow".

The final was going to be a tough contest. The honours had been shared, one win apiece, in their two previous encounters with opponents Northern Galaxy Silver.

But the Dreamz had an extra obstacle to overcome. During the tournament one of their donated shirts had been lost and they couldn't afford to replace it, so they chose to take a five-point handicap rather than drop a player.

After an early struggle, they ran away in the final minutes to win 31-23.

When the final siren sounded, the beaming boys were ecstatic, hugging each other and dancing – after shaking the hands of their rivals.

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