Bruno Cerella of Umana Reyer Venice is a one-of-a-kind player. Born in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, Cerella has played his entire professional career in Italy, winning three Italian League championships: with AX Armani Exchange Milan in 2014 and 2016, and with Reyer in 2019. He also lifted two Italian Cup trophies with Milan, won the FIBA Europe Cup with Reyer, and has been a member of the Italian national team. His off-court achievements, however, are what make him unique. After reading a book given to him by an aunt, The Awakening of the Leader, he decided to go beyond basketball and do something special for the others, creating Slums Dunk, a non-profit organization which aims at improving the conditions of children and youth living in the marginalized areas or communities in Africa. With four basketball academies in Kenya and Zambia, as well as new projects starting in Argentina and Italy, Cerella is fully devoted to improving people's lives through basketball and its values.
Bruno Cerella: 'A lot of nice stories to tell'
Hello again! It has been a while since I last blogged so I have decided to start with a little bit of update. I have been playing for Umana Reyer Venice for a while; this is my third season with the club. It is a club with great expectations, one that has worked hard for 10 years, with new owners and the ambition to get better and better, getting very good results. In the last three years, the club won two Italian League titles and also lifted a European trophy, the FIBA Europe Cup. We always had competitive teams and that is great because, at my age, it is always nice to keep playing for a great team and great players. I feel privileged to be here.
In fact, when the club won the Italian League title in 2017, it was Reyer's first trophy in 74 years. Back then, when Reyer won the Italian championship in 1943, the club played on the second floor of a church in Venice, a beautiful place you should know. The club has a very special story, as you can see. Reyer featured a lot of sports and it is the City of Venice's club. By winning again, 74 and 76 years later, we are rewriting the club's history, and it is nice to be part of that.
"Our priority is to keep building the team rather than worrying about our next opponents."
And now, here we are in the 7DAYS EuroCup. It took us three rounds to finally get our first win. We had two very tough games against Partizan and Lokomotiv, but we beat another good team, Tofas, and that is very important. If we had not won, things would have started to look a bit complicated in the standings. We have to keep working. Our priority is to keep building the team rather than worrying about our next opponents. We have to build our playing system. We have a lot of talented players and a lot of room for improvement. I like the EuroCup a lot; the teams are always competitive and it is nice to play in European competition. We have to keep working and try to reach high with our team.
We will play at home again against Limoges this week. It will be our third home game, and we will not play in our arena for a while after that. For now, we have to think about Limoges. One game at a time! We have to grab what we can see and then set small, short-term goals to think further. In a competition with short phases like the EuroCup, every game is very important, as well as the points difference.
As for Slums Dunk, our non-profit organization of social utility, things have changed a lot in the last few years, too. Nowadays, our projects are running non-stop throughout the year. We have four basketball academies -- two in Ndola, Zambia and another two in Kenya, Nairobi and Kisumu. All of our basketball academies are running well, with a lot of projects involving 600 players, more or less. All our projects are in collaboration with other organizations that take care of health and education. In that sense, we have a 360-degree impact on the lives of these new generations. We are creating opportunities and trying to improve their lives through sports, taking them away from drugs, prostitution and criminality.
Recently, we started a new project in Argentina, in a very different context, but I am very happy about because it is in the club where I grew up, Club Pueyrredon in Bahia Blanca, a city that breathes basketball. Manu Ginobili is from Bahia Blanca! We also have projects in Italy, using our initiatives to work with foreigners who come to live here. We are very happy because we are getting good results; some can be measured, some others can't. For instance, we have granted scholarships to 40 boys and girls based on sports merit. It is incredible because these kids could have never afforded to carry on studying, since they do not have the financial possibilities to do so.
"I always liked One Team because I know how much sports can help people and promote values."
Slums Dunk and One Team, Euroleague Basketball's corporate social responsibility program, have a lot in common. Mainly, both of them use basketball to achieve real social impact either in local communities or in Africa. This is why I have always been proud to be a One Team Ambassador for all the teams I played for in the EuroLeague or the EuroCup, and be present in all of their initiatives. I learned a lot from all the work One Team did with kids. I loved spending time with them. I am putting together a project in Kenya for disabled kids which is yet to be defined, whether it will a project for kids with either physical or mental disabilities, as these two are completely different matters. I always liked One Team because I know how much sports can help people and promote values through these nice initiatives. I have great memories of a One Team event we did at the 2014 Final Four in Milan, too. I love the project and always support it.
As for Slums Dunk, I never thought it would go down this beautiful road and gave me so much personal satisfaction, and this is why I invest a lot of my time in it. I am a lucky person to earn a living through sports. Luck came hand in hand with the hard work I did for many years. This is my way to pay sports back for everything it gave to me. I love investing as much as time as I can to this project because I believe in it.
Nowadays, everything we do comes with personal satisfaction. We are very happy to have so much people supporting us. As my friend Tommy (Tommaso Marino, who plays for Basket Ravenna Piero Manetti) of Slums Dunk says: "If you do good things, you have good things to tell and talk about." It is true! We have a lot of nice stories to tell, life stories which go much further down than finding a basketball talent.
Talk to you next time!