By: Owen Ebner (10th Grade)
Due to the absence of school sports, the Warrior Word sports section is publishing its own articles covering professional sports.
Israelis everywhere celebrated on NBA draft night when two Israeli basketball players, Deni Avdija and Yam Madar, were selected to play in the NBA. Avdija was selected ninth by the Washington Wizards, making him the highest picked Israeli ever, and Madar joined him later, after he was taken forty-seventh by the Boston Celtics.
Avdija, 19, has long been touted as one of Israel's premier players. Basketball runs in the family. His Father, Zufer, is a retired Serbian basketball player. Avdija spent the past three years playing forward for Maccabi Tel Aviv, setting the club's record for the youngest debut ever. Many NBA scouts predict an immediate impact on the league. He will join the lackluster Washington Wizards, but has a chance to turn them around, along with all-star teammates Russel Westbrook and Bradley Beal.
Madar, 19, on the other hand is a major underdog. Born in Beit Dagan, he has played point guard for Hapoel Tel Aviv the past two years. Many did not think he would be drafted in this year's draft, but clearly he proved them wrong. He will likely not make an impact right away due to the Celtics’ depth at his position, but will get to develop his skills for the Eastern Conference runner up.
This past draft marked the first time a duo of Israelis were selected. Previously only one Israeli, Omri Casspi, had ever been drafted.
Casspi was drafted in 2009 by the Sacramento Kings. He had a ten year NBA career, before returning to Israel to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv. It was there where he formed a relationship with his former teammate Deni Avdija. He was seen on Instagram after this year's draft congratulating Avdija, and even gave him the bracha that the Cohanim make during Jewish prayers.
As Israeli NBA draftees, Advija and Madar have become inspirations to Hebrew Academy students with basketball aspirations.
“It's cool that they get to represent Israel,” said Dovid Budwick (9th Grade). “It's also pretty cool to know that kids like them, from Israel, can make it to the NBA.”
Other students said they are excited about the news and cannot wait to cheer on these new players.
“I think it is very inspiring and it is very cool to have Israeli Players in the NBA. I am going to root for them and wish them well,” said Yonatan Mizrachi (10th).
Both Avdija and Madar are pioneers. They will hopefully lead an era with many more Israeli players to come, and Hebrew Academy students will be rooting for them all the way.