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Fordham* wins basketball championship

Former Rams players*, that is.

Anadolu Efes Istanbul - FC Barcelona Photo by Marius Becker/picture alliance via Getty Images

Fordham is on top of the basketball world. In part, at least.

Former Ram Bryant Dunston played a key role in Turkish team Anadolu Efes taking home its first EuroLeague title on Sunday with a five-point win over Barcelona. The European competition is the highest level of men’s professional basketball outside the United States, and Dunston has been a fixture in it more than a decade on from his time in the Bronx.

The big man, who is in his sixth year with Efes, talked about what the win meant with

“I was dreaming of it. I’ve worked hard to make it happen. So many years that it didn’t happen, last year when it almost happened but the pandemic cut it short, it’s really great to have it work out for us. The amount of work that all of us put together with the guys, we sacrificed for each other, we gave up so much for each other to play as a team and it worked out for us. I’m so happy.”

Dunston scored six points and grabbed three rebounds in over 18 minutes in the final, tangling with a Barcelona frontcourt that included former BYU star Brandon Davies and, in a small sunset role, Pau Gasol.

The big man had a solid EuroLeague campaign for the champion, averaging 8.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 21.3 minutes over 36 games. He’s been a constant for the Istanbul-based team since 2015-16, after breaking into the EuroLeague with Olympiacos for two seasons beginning in 2013.

For a foreigner, six seasons with one team is a rarity in Europe, and Dunston has surely made his mark. He was All-EuroLeague Second Team in 2016-17, has led the league in blocks two times and, notably, is the competition’s all-time leader in career blocks, reaching the mark against his former team (Olympiacos) last October.

Dunston’s success in Europe follows a big-time career in the Bronx. He was a part of Dereck Whittenburg’s second recruiting class in 2004, and was a monster as a freshman (14.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG), the lead-in for a career that currently has him sitting second in program history in scoring (1,832), first in blocks (292) and fourth in rebounds (993).

In a stat that’s likely haunting for Rams fans, Dunston was one of the focal points of Fordham’s last winning team, when the Rams went 18-12 overall in 2006-07. He was also a part of the only two seasons the Rams have finished with a winning record in their 26 years in the A-10: 9-7 in 2005-06 and 10-6 in 2006-07.

Whittenburg talked about what the Dunston-led senior class meant to the program in 2008.

“This group of seniors restored a lot of pride to the Fordham men’s basketball program,” Whittenburg said. “We asked them to do a lot, and even though we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do this year, I’m really proud of these guys for how far they’ve taken the program.”

13 years later, Dunston is starring alongside fellow former U.S. college stars Shane Larkin, Chris Singleton and James Anderson. And he wasn’t the only former Ram on the roster.

Guard Erten Garzi, who played for Efes’ junior team as a teenager, signed with the club in August after a two-year run at Fordham. He started 16 games for Jeff Neubauer in 2019-20, averaging 8.9 points per game while shooting 37.2 percent from three. Garzi played sparingly throughout the EuroLeague season, getting into eight regular season games and making a short cameo in one of Efes’ playoff games against Real Madrid.

In any event, he joins Dunston as former Rams standing atop one of basketball’s tallest mountains.