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Father vs son in pro game

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IN international basketball history, there was only a single instance that a father and son that competed in a major professional (or semi-professional) league in the same season and even played against each other.

Italian all-time great Dino Meneghin dribbled long enough for him to go up against son Andrea during the 1993-94 season of the Italian League.

A 6-foot-9 center, Dino Meneghin saw action in the Italian League for a stunning 28 seasons and played the final game of his distinguished career in 1993-94 at the age of 44.

Dino’s farewell campaign was historic in that he, a member of the Olimpia Milano club, squared off against his then 19-year-old son Andrea, who was carrying the colors of Pallacanestro Varese, in a number of IL games.

The 67-year-old Dino Meneghin has been the president of the Italian Basketball Federation (FIP) since February 2009. On the other hand, the 43-year-old Andrea, who is a legendary figure in his birth place of Varese, has been coaching the Pallacanestro Varese squad since 2007-08 following his retirement after 17 seasons (1990-2007) in the Italian pro circuit with the same club (1990-2000, 2002-05 and 2006-07 with Pallacanestro Daverio) and a two-year stint (2000-02) with Fortitudo Bologna.

Long before Danilo Gallinari (now starring with the Denver Nuggets) came along, there was an Italian icon by the name of Dino Meneghin. Born in Alano di Piave, Veneto (northeast Italy), Dino, who made his Italian League debut with Ignis Varese on November 20, 1966 at age 16, played 836 games in Italy’s premiere cage league and chalked up 8,560 points with Ignis/Pallacanestro Varese (1966-80), Olimpia Milano (1980-90), Pallacanestro Trieste (1990-93) and Olimpia Milano (1993-94). He helped guide his teams to 12 titles and nine runner-up finishes.

During his prime, the bull-shouldered Meneghin was an outstanding scorer, rebounder and defender so much so that the Atlanta Hawks grabbed him in the 11th round (out of 19 rounds) of the 1970 National Basketball Association draft.  He neither suited up with the Hawks nor played in the NBA.

With the Italian national unit, Dino appeared in 271 contests from 1969 to 1984 and tallied 2,847 markers. He starred for the Azzurri in four Olympics – 1972 in Munich, 1976 in Montreal, 1980 in Moscow and 1984 in Los Angeles (winning a silver in 1980 even as the United States boycotted the Moscow Games due to the old Soviet Union’s earlier invasion of Afghanistan) – and a pair of World Basketball Championship – 1970 in Ljubljana in the old Yugoslavia and 1978 in Manila.

With a victory over Spain in the finals, Dino also powered Italy to its first-ever gold medal in the 1983 European Championship (now known as FIBA EuroBasket) in Nantes, France in 1983.

Nine years before that in 1974, while playing for Varese in the top division of the Italian League, it was said that he fathered a boy out of wedlock. Andrea was the boy sired by a local woman Graziella Battaini. It was not long before he drifted out of the lives of both mother and son.

Dino was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame in September 2010 in recognition of his sterling play in international competitions.

At age five, Andrea got interested in the sport of basketball. Eleven years later, he had grown to 6-6 ¾, and was slowly carving his own name in Italian cage history. An all-around shooting guard/small forward, Andrea powered Pallacanestro Varese to the Italian league crown in 1999 – the first for the franchise since 1978.

Andrea also became an international star when he bannered the Azzurri to the 1999 European Championship in France and in the process, earned a berth on the All-Tournament team.

According to coach/scout Dan Peterson, an American who mentored a Milan club during the 1980s, “(Andrea’s) like Toni Kukoc (of Croatia), only a better athlete. Dino was power and screens, all the things that don’t show up in the box score.  Andrea does all the things that do show up in the box score.”

Andrea did not exactly warm up to his dad until the mid-1990s even as Dino and his son were brought together as members of the Italian national team in 1996 – Dino as the team manager and Andrea as a player.

Today, their relationship has become better.

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