Translated Ma'ariv article - Independance Day, May 9, 2000                                                        
Neta is going to beat cancer!
Shalom Yerushalami                                                                                                     
Last Spring (2000), just 16 and a half years old, Netta Van Zwaren was already recognized as a promising basketball star.  She was to fly to the USA, to fulfill her dream of studying and training at a South Carolina college. But just then, doctors diagnosed a rare form of cancer, which appeared on the back of her right hand � her basket shooting hand.   In spite of pain and other challenges posed by chemotherapy treatments, Netta has not relinquished her dream and is putting up a strong fight. "I'll get to college basketball in the end, just as I planned.  Keeping my goal firmly fixed in my mind's eye gives me strength. This is the simple, rational approach to success, and I did not invent it."

   Netta van Zwaren, just 16 and a half years old, is a member of Jerusalem's HaPoel Basketball team. Over six foot four tall, Netta is one of the tallest girls in Israel � maybe its tallest. She may yet add a few centimeters to her extraordinary height at her age. Her mentor, Yakov Shrem is one of Israel's outstanding veteran sports coaches. Yakov thinks that Netta embodies an unbeatable combination of natural intelligence and play savy.  Shrem is committed to coaching Netta and says he will not stop until she reaches the WNBA, the American Womens' League, which ranks first in world basketball.

   "As far as her height is concerned," Yakov explains, Netta is like Radissav Tchorchitz. She can grasp a rebound, other players bunk into her and she doesn't wink an eyelash. Add to that her extraordinary qualities of character, and then you could understand why she is going to go far. Netta has discipline, loyalty, she's realistic, and she is a brave fighter."

   As for being "brave," Netta moved away from home at age 14, to get some "breathing space."  Loyal and loving of her family, she sees no reason to go into detail. Last Spring, Netta was about to leave for a North Carolina college entrance exam which could have lead to a full scholarship.  Her trip had been arranged by basketball professionals who recognized her enormous potential.

   At that critical moment in her budding career, Netta was diagnosed as having a rare form of cancer, which appeared on her right hand, her basket shooter hand.  Netta was operated on  for removal of the tumor, but in the process, also lost two bones in her hand. But even now, as she takes her chemotherapy treatments, with bandages barely covering her stitches, Netta is still throwing and counting baskets, albeit with her left hand, and feels that her dream is getting ever closer to fulfillment.

    Netta explains that "This situation, in which I refuse to lose sight of my goal, strengthens me so that I will eventually make that trip to the college, which as far as I'm concerned, is only delayed by a matter of months. I know this is not just a dream but a fact."  This optimism is shared by Coach Shrem,  who envisions Netta joining as a permanent team member of a European basketball team.

Three years ago, Coach Yakov Shrem set up a girls' team as part of Jerusalem HaPoel sports. The 67 year old Shrem is a walking legend as far as basketball is concerned. He is the local version of a Ralph Klein or a  Joshua Rozin.  In the 60s, he played for Jerusalem Maccabi, and though invited to its summit team, he refused, claiming that the game time allotted to the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem teams was unfairly allocated. He later founded the Jerusaem Betar  team, coaching it on the national team level. He made his name for his discernment and talent as a coach. He discovered sports talent and produced an impressive number of top players who rose to the national league, including Avraham Hoffman and his own brother, Moshe Shrem, Mordecai Tanuri and Yisrael Tewil.
   "Tewil didn't play for Jerusalem Maccabi," Yakov reminisces. "I asked him to shoot for the basket and he didn't even touch the board.  I said to him "look here, you have genuine talent." Three years later, he made the national league.
   Netta van Zwaren met Shrem only a year and a half ago, with no prior experience. Shrem: "her first practice session showed me she didn't even know how to hold a ball, and she lacked perception of working space.  She'd just grasp the ball and throw it towards the basket. That's the style one would expect of a kid in first grade.  All the girls laughed at her, including the team leader. At her very first workout, I told everybody � "you're laughing now, but Netta is the only one among you capable of getting into the national league and the Israel team."

   "I took her aside and asked her not to pay any attention to the jesting and nonsense. I entreated her to "Do as I tell you. I'll build your motivation and together we'll go far." 

   Netta:  "At first, I found it hard to communicate with my growing body. I'd collide with a corner of a table while walking past. At first, trying to become a basketball player upset me. I saw I just wasn't settling in. Once, we attended a game in Ashdod. I went off to the bathroom with a friend and as we stepped out, I saw that our teams' bus had driven off, leaving us behind. Only Yakov Shrem kept his optimistic outlook. He taught me how to work with my body's dimensions. He worked with me on coordination, long before we got down to the nitty gritty of basketball. He gave me daily workouts at the trainers' fitness room. I didn't have a minute's time to myself. I'd get up at 6:30 in the morning, run to my classes, then to my job, and then to the fitness room and from there to basketball practice. I'd get home at midnight. My teacher at the Gymnasia high school thought I'd just taken too much on myself. But basketball indeed became the focal point of my life.
    Shrem:  "Netta slowly got the hang of it. She sat a lot on the bench, and I started getting her on the floor for a few minutes every time.  She'd catch every rebound, and got to grabbing the ball. Girls fell against her and she'd not even notice. I worked with her on flexibility and body fitness. I gave her performance goals and technique.  She came round to understanding that basketball needs team work, and she applied herself to it. The other players changed their attitude towards her and today they all love her and are helped by her. She rose to the top five and I put her in with an older team, which plays in League A.
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