All hail the performance of Kosovo`s Dardan Berisha
"I am very proud to be a part of this," the 28-year-old Berisha said. "It`s been a dream for us to play at such a level and beat a team that was at the top of European basketball up until some years ago.
Kosovo's American coach Brad Greenberg has been in basketball his entire life. He played at John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview, New York, and then hit the hardwood at Washington State and American University before launching his coaching career in 1977.
So when he lauds Dardan Berisha as he did on Wednesday night after his stunning 26-point, 4-assist performance for Kosovo in a 72-68 triumph over the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (MKD), you know the praise is richly deserved.
Greenberg, coaching Kosovo in their first FIBA Basketball World Cup European Pre-Qualifier in Prishtina, said: "It was a special experience for me to watch Dardan and the way he played."
Berisha, attacking the basket, was the man of the moment for Kosovo
Berisha, a 6ft, 2in (1.91m) shooting guard who also had 6 rebounds, a steal and a block, hurt MKD in every way imaginable. He scored inside (7-of-9) the arc and beyond it (4-of-11) and also made free-throws (2-of-3).
At FIBA EuroBasket 2011, while a member of Poland's national side, he was the team's second-leading scorer with 13.2 points per game. Now the Peje-born star is able to wear his homeland's jersey and no one was better on Wednesday.
That includes the 2016-17 Basketball Champions League MVP, Jordan Theodore. MKD's naturalized player, Theodore was nevertheless very good with 22 points and 6 assists.
"I am very proud to be a part of this," the 28-year-old Berisha said. "It's been a dream for us to play at such a level and beat a team that was at the top of European basketball up until some years ago.
This is a great beginning, but we must stay hungry. I think that by winning, we established that we are for real.Greenberg
"We have been together for a month and this was a great achievement. I say that this is much more than a win."
Wednesday's triumph was crucial for a Kosovo team that did not taste victory last year. However, more important games have to be won for the team to achieve its aim of competing in the World Cup Qualifiers which tip off in November.
"This is a great beginning, but we must stay hungry," Greenberg said. "I think that by winning, we established that we are for real."
Greenberg has stressed the importance of being mentally tough and the Kosovo players were.
"We talked a lot in this team that we need to have a strong will and that is worth a lot and the players felt that we played a very important game and scored an important win," he said. "We put on a great defensive performance in the first half and had an overall great experience.
"I am very happy for everyone and I am proud and this will be a special night."
The coach of MKD, Jordancho Davitkov, was impressed by Kosovo. So much so, in fact, that he said: "I think Kosovo and MKD will go through to the World Cup Qualifiers."Estonia, the other team in Group C, will have something to say about that. They play at MKD in Skopje on Saturday night.
Davitkov also raved about Berisha.
"Dardan Berisha had a great game and he is a high-level player and a true team leader," he said.