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Thread: Hooping Overseas: experience of Jewish-American playing in Israel

  1. #1
    EL Week 3 MVP Billy Bounce's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Country: Israel

    Lightbulb Hooping Overseas: experience of Jewish-American playing in Israel

    There is BSL final game today between Maccabi Tel Aviv ( kinda expected, no ? ) and Maccabi Ashdod.

    One of the reasons Ashdod got so far was American guard named Robby Bostain. He was brought to Ashdod mid-season and it turned out that his signing was a "steal" of the season.

    I've looked for info for him & found his blog here. Pretty interesting inside on Israeli basketball & life in general.

    The next two posts are intercepts from his blog.

  2. #2
    EL Week 3 MVP Billy Bounce's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Country: Israel


    First off, I want to say I am excited to be writing about my basketball experience in Israel for the Gwinnett Daily Post, A quick background of my basketball career, I am a graduate of Brookwood High School in 2002 and I continued my collegiate career at Furman University. I have spent the past four years playing professionally in Holland. I recently signed a contract in Israel for Maccabi Ashdod located in Ashdod, Israel. I will be joining the team as they are half-way through their season. I arrived here on February 1, 2012. The following has been my experience thus far.


    When I was first offered the opportunity to continue my basketball career in Israel, I was very hesitant on the idea. Being in America, you read about Israel in the news a lot and it is not because of how much the Middle Eastern Countries adore them. But, I had one teammate who played here and I emailed the american guys on the current team to get their opinion. They all had great things to say about the situation. They have always felt safe, have been paid on time (which is not always common), and everyone said it has been their favorite place to play in their career. When I asked about my current city Ashdod, Israel the most common response I got was, "Ashdod is the Los Angeles of Israel". So, after talking it over with my family I decided to take the leap and continue my career in Israel. After many talks with the General Manager and him telling me he would have a camel ready for me, I singed the contract to play for Maccabi Ashdod. They booked my flight a few days later, and my flight route was going to be from Atlanta to Philadelphia to Tel Aviv. The flight from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv is a little over 10 hours. I left on a Tuesday night and arrived Wednesday afternoon. Tel Aviv is 7 hours ahead of Georgia.

    Arriving in a new country and not knowing anyone is always an anxious moment, but it is quite common for a European basketball player. After my flight landed, I was told I would be met by the Team Manager after I collected my bags and went through customs. When you walk into the welcoming area, you never know what to expect or who to look for. You hope that someone will recognize you. When I came through the customs door, I scanned the area and was unable to make eye contact with anyone that seemed to know me. Not knowing where to go or what to do next I stood in the middle of the welcoming area with all my luggage with hopes of getting a tap on the shoulder. After about 20 minutes of staring at every new person that came by, the team manager walked by and I saw that he had a polo on that seemed to have a basketball logo on it. We made eye contact and sure enough he was the right guy. After we greeted each other and talked for a bit it was off to Ashdod, Israel. Ashdod is about 35 minutes south of Tel Aviv.

    The manager took me by the practice facility where the team was finishing up pratice. I got a chance to meet some of the guys, the General Manager, and owner. Everyone was very welcoming. After this, the manager took me to a very nice restaurant and grocery shopping. They bought my first round of groceries which was very nice of them. Unlike Holland, the labels on the food here are in Hebrew. I kept my selection farily simple: eggs, milk, bread, pasta, chicken, frozen pizza, and water. Omar Casspi is the first Israeli player in the NBA and he had his own cereal so I thought I would give that a try as well. It is hard to get creative in the kitchen when you can not read the food labels. After my mini-shopping spree it was off to see my apartment. Seeing your apartment for the first time is like a reading a mystery novel. The contract says, "Player will receive a furnished apartment", but that can be vague sometimes. You are never quite sure what you will get: Good/Bad location, cable TV, Big/Little Refridgerator, Washer/Dryer located in the shower like my last apartment, comfortable bed, clean sheets, and whether or not you have good cooking plates and utensils. But, I must say the apartment I have now is the best one I have had since playing. Very well furnished and a great location. I live on the 12th floor of a 13 floor apartment building that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, city of Ashdod, and is next to the beach. There are not too many complaints on the living situation. After seeing my apartment, it was time to unpack, get some rest, and get ready for tomorrows practice.

    The next day would be my first practice in over 8 months. I felt like I kept myself in really good shape, but practice and game shape can always be a little different than running, sprinting, and working out on your own. Practice was at 6pm, but before then I needed to run some more errands with our team manager and I also wanted to get a basketball workout in before the first practice. The errands I had to run were to set up my Israeli Bank Account, register as a citizen of Ashdod, and pick up my car. Getting your car is also in exciting time because you never really know what you are going to get. The car is an automatic, four-door Mazda. Nothing fancy, but a very nice and simple car. After the errands, I headed to the gym for a shooting workout with one of my teammates. It was nice to get a sweat and get used to the gym before practice. We went pretty hard for about an hour which would prove costly later in the eveneing. After the workout, it was time to head back home for lunch and some rest. I was told that I needed to still take my physical, which includes running on a treadmill while taking an EKG and seeing how your body responds to strenuous exercise. The manager told me we may be doing this the next day or right before practice that day. In my mind, I was thinking that is not the best thing to do right before my first practice, after a long flight, and a solid workout earlier that day. So, I was hoping the physical would be the following day. Around 4pm, I heard my phone ring and I got the news that it was time for the physical and for me to play "lab rat".

    The manager picked me up and took me to the doctors office. One of the nice things about being an athlete in Europe and Israel is that you usually never wait in the waiting room of a doctors office. The team ususally has some type of connection where you are able to bypass the waiting room and go straight to the doctor. The doctors office had the treadmill and all the necessary equipment to take my EKG. Usually a person who is about to partake in strenuous exercise likes to warm-up and stretch. But, when I entered the room I was told in a Russian accent "Strip". Thankfully, that only meant take off my shirt. The Doc hooked me up the necessary wires and put me on the treadmill. Not knowing what was coming or how long the test would last, the doctor gave me a 1 minute warm-up at a walking pace on about a 2% grade. Every minute thereafter, the speed and grade increased exponentially. After about 3 minutes, I felt like I was rock climbing. I did not realize the human body could produce so much sweat in a short amount of time. Thankfully, the test lasted only 7 minutes, but that was long enough to break a sweat and make my legs nice and sore before practice. After the test, it was off to practice number 1.

    Being excited to be back on the court, I had no idea what to expect in my first practice. I was anxious to see where my skills and conditioning were after a lengthy time off. I made it through about 40 minutes of practice before both of my calves began to cramp up. I see guys on TV going down with cramps and now I understand why. I was unable to continue practice and had to spend the rest of the time on the sideline icing. It was not the best way to start your first practice, but I think the coach and manager understood my situation. The 40 minutes I did practice felt good and it was really nice to be back in a competitive environment. After practice, I immediately went to the grocery store to buy bananas and water. I ate about 8 bananas that night and drank at least a gallon of water to help with the cramping.

    The next few practices were a lot better for me personally. I was able to settle in and make some plays during the practices. I was able to complete the entire next practice which felt good. I have been fortuante enough to play for many coaches and see a lot of different practice styles. My four years in Holland, practice was very intense, structured, and disciplined. My first few practices in Israel were quite different than what I was used to to say the least. Here is a quick comparison of the two practice styles.

    Holland Practice Style ---------- Israel practice style

    Usually two practices a day ------------ Usually one practice a day

    Lots of running sprints --------- No running sprints

    Lots of Defensive and Rebounding Drills -------- Almost no defensive and rebounding drills

    Running suicides for losing a drill --------- No running suicides for losing a drill

    Everyone on the team is close to my age----------- Get to guard the 37yr old Israeli player of the decade

    Must bring your own water to practice -------- Team provides water

    Bring your own towel for shower -------- Team provides towel

    Trainer is rarely at practice ---------- Trainer is always at practice

    No massages before practice ------- Massages always before practice

    No locker for storing your gear ------- Personal locker for your gear with a key

    Must wash own practice gear ------------ Team washes practice gear

    Must bring your own ball to practice ------------- Team keeps balls at gym

    From the following list, I think you can understand why I pinch myself when practice is over. I do not want you guys to get the wrong idea because the basketball level is still very high and the coach is a very smart guy. It is just a totally different way of going about practice as a professional.

    Our first game was Monday (February 6th). We would be playing a team called Hapoel Jerusalem at our place. I was very excited for my first game in a long time. I had no idea where I would be in the rotation or how many minutes I would play, so I tried to prepare myself for anything. The game was extremely exciting and went into overtime. We were able to win by one point. It was the most fun I have had playing in awhile. The style of play is very exciting and different than Holland. I was able to play 20 minutes and I checked in for the first time a few minutes into the second quarter. It was really a very good game to be a part of. I was in the game during overtime and I could not help but smile and shake my head because a few weeks before this game I did not think I would be in Israel playing in an overtime game. It was really nice to share the win with my new teammates. After any game win or lose, the team usually heads back into the locker room and the coach usually comes in to wrap things up and talk about the game and upcoming schedule. So, I was sitting at my locker waiting for coach to come in before I undressed and got into the shower. Usually the proper thing to do is to wait for coach before preparing for the shower. After about 10 minutes, I looked at my teammate next to me and asked, "Is coach coming in to talk?". He looked at me like I was crazy and said, "He has never been in the locker room after a game." So after my first game, an overtime win, and no post game speech it was back to the apartment to prepare for the next day.

  3. #3
    EL Week 3 MVP Billy Bounce's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Country: Israel



    It has been over two months since my last blog entry and there really is no excuse for not updating sooner. A lot has happened since my last entry and I am going to try to summarize it all with a few blog entries instead of one big blog entry.

    I will start first with basketball news. We just recently finished our regular season with a record of 12-12. That puts us into 7th place. The top 8 teams make the playoffs in the Israeli League, so we will be playing the #2 seed starting this coming Monday in a Best of 5 series. Playoffs are always exciting and it is the best time of the season. The adjustment from playing in Holland, to taking some time off, and getting back into the groove has been a pretty good transition. There have been ups and downs, but the team has been very welcoming and the guys have made the adjustment very comfortable.

    I will give a quick description of how the basketball league here works. Games are usually every Sunday. In Israel, Saturday is the Sabbath (Shabbat) and in America it is Sunday. So, games are not played on Saturday and instead they are played on Sunday. There is usually only one game a week which makes for a lot of practice time. This is a very common theme in any European League. The season is very stretched out (8-10 months) with a lot of practice time in between. This is much different than the NBA where you play 3-5 nights a week. Within 8-10 months, the teams in Israel only play 24 regular season games, so that means a lot of days in between games. In the NBA, they play 82 Regular Season games within 7-8 months. All the games are broadcasst live on TV and then posted on the internet where anyone can watch the games anytime. This makes it nice for family and friends to keep in touch with what is going on. In the Israeli League, there must be one Israeli citizen on the court at all times and each team can only have 4 Americans on the game-day roster. You can have more than 4, but only 4 can suit up for a game. One of the big differences I have noticed in this league is the use of fouls. In Europe, there are four quarters and each quarter you are allowed 4 fouls and then on the fifth foul the team gets two free throws. There is no one-in-one. Fouls are used very strategically and smartly. Very rarely do you see a foul for no reason. Fouls are generally used to stop transition breaks or when the offensive team has some type of advantage in numbers or a breakdown. Guys are very smart in reaching-in and committing a foul on purpose to stop a potential fast break. I think in America fouls are not committined for a purpose, they are more committed from bad positioning. There is no meaning behind the foul, but here the majority of the fouls have a meaning behind it. If you were to get a steal and about to have a 3-on-1 advantage, usually someone will run over and bump you or reach in to stop the fast break. It is very smart and a great way to keep a team from getting an easy basket. Coaches want you to use your allowed fouls per quarter. You do not want a team to get into the penalty, but coaches want you to use your 4 fouls per quarter at smart times.

    Now, I want to update everyone on some of the unique aspects of living and playing in Israel. In Israel, all men and women must serve in the Army. Boys must serve 3 years and Girls must serve 2 years. When you turn 18, that is the time you start your service, so Boys generally serve from 18-21 and girls serve from 18-20. After you finish service, that is ususally when you begin your studying. Most of the Israeli guys on my team have already served their army terms. A lot of the these guys are true tough guys. I like to talk with my teammates about their service so I can learn more. One of teammates said his 3 years was spent in the equivolant of the SWAT Team in America. It is interesting stuff. The Army decides what your role will be in the Army based on your physical and mentall assessment. There are two guys on my team who are younger, one has been in the army for a year and the other just turned 18 and started his army service . These guys are rarely at practice due to their army committment. But, once or twice a week they show up to the locker room in their Army Fatigues and carrying their AK-47's (Just kidding on the AK 47's). For my teammate who just turned 18, I got to experience my first Going-to-the-Army Pizza Party. We were all asked to chip in some Israeli Shekels (currency here) for Pizza and to throw him a going away party. He will be busy with his committment for the next 3 years although he usually has weekends off and a day here and there during the week.

    The highlight or most interesting part of my time in Israel has been the Missle Conflict between the Gaza Strip and Israel. My city, Ashdod, is about 30 minuties north of the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip is a terriorty where the Palestinians live. There has been conflict between Gaza and Israel for many years. There is a border separating the two territories. As I have learned, when the conflict gets tense, missle shooting seems to be the method of letting the other country know we are not on good terms. The following is my interpretation of how things work, may not be 100% accurate, but from talking to different people it is how I understand it.

    Israel has a very strong army and the Gaza Strips Palestinians are not as advanced militarily as Israel. They do have missle capability and my understanding is that their missles are usually home-made and not top of the line missles, but they are still dangerous. When the conflict got tense about a month ago, Palestinians would begin shooting their missles over the border wall into Israel. Once again, my understanding is they have No idea where these missles are headed. Sometimes, these missles even blow up inside Gaza and not even make it over the wall. When they do make it over the wall, they are headed north, which is where my city Ashdod is located.

    Israel has advanced military equipment and one piece of equipment they have is called the Iron Dome (check it out on youtube, and thank you United States for helping fund it). The Iron Dome is a Missile Defense System that shoots a missle at the incoming missle from Gaza to blow it up before it lands in Israel. Ashdod has an Iron Dome. Also, anytime there is a missle headed towards Ashdod, there is a city alarm that goes off to alert everyone to take cover and get into your safe room if you have one. My safe room is my guest bedroom (Thicker walls and stronger windows). The alarm sounds can be scary when you hear it for the first time. The first time the alarm went off, I had heard rumors that something may happen, I was not really expecting an alarm. I immediately turned into Usain Bolt for about 2 seconds and sprinted from my living room to the safe room and had the quickest hands in the world as I shut and locked my door. When the alarm goes off, you have about 30 seconds to get cover before the missile gets to the city. Majority of the time, The Iron Dome is able to shoot these missises down before landing, but the alarm always goes off.

    There was a period of about 3-4 days where the alarm was going off about 5 times a day. It would go off as I was sleeping, cooking, at practice, and even on my way to practice. When I was driving to practice, I had my radio on and was cruising down the road when I saw people from the sidewalk sprinting across the road and taking cover behind buildings. I was thinking to myself this looks weird, so I lowered my window and I heard the alarm. I immediately swirved my car over (almost wrecking), and pulled it over on the side of the road and sprinted for cover. Like I said, most of the time the missiles do not land, but you can hear the loud bang of the Iron Dome missle blowing up the incoming missle. It is a very unique experience. The alarm was going off so much, that the team decided to move the Americans to a hotel in Tel Aviv for a few nights until things cooled off. It was nice of them to do that. After talking with my teammates about what was going on, it is not a very big deal to them. It is normal to them. They said when the alarm would go off at night they would just continue to sleep and not worry to much about it. This missile tension led to the most interesting text message I have ever received. Our team manager always sends out texts about changes in practice and updates. I did not save the text, but this is pretty close to accurate as to what the text message said: "Due to the missiles coming into Ashdod our game this week has been cancelled and we will practice instead". It is not everyday I receive a text like that.

    Although the above story can sound bad, I never felt in serious danger. I always felt safe, but it was definitely an interesting experience. I will update another post soon and thanks again for reading.

  4. #4
    Senior Member serbianhoops's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Country: Monaco


    Tamir takes his talents to the Holy Land

    January 16, 2014 ·

    MELBOURNE basketball star Benji Tamir is plying his trade in Israel with third division club Hapoel Gezer-Na’an, which signed the young gun to a one-year deal after he impressed at the Maccabiah Games in July last year.

    Although the 22-year-old faced his challenges in securing the deal, Tamir is now relishing the opportunity to develop his game in the Holy Land.

    “Playing at the highest level I’ve ever played at, with a new team and a new language – it’s a big challenge,” Tamir told The AJN.

    “But my teammates have been great, making me feel comfortable, which has made it easier to adjust.

    “The passion they have for the game and for the team is incredible, and the fans have such pride in Na’an, bringing horns and drums and creating a thrilling atmosphere, which really inspires you to play harder and get better.”

    Tamir has made a name for himself with the Maccabi Warriors, having won three Most Valuable Player awards, becoming one of the youngest in the club’s history to take out the top gong.

    The successful Hapoel Gezer-Na’an, which boasts nine wins and two losses for the season, is a storied organisation, which is based at one of the oldest kibbutzim in the country, located 45 minutes south of Tel Aviv.

    The club’s halcyon days included a stint in first division in the late 1970s and the story of its 10-point victory over league powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv in 1978 is the stuff of legend.

    The star recruit was hired for his athleticism and versatility, rare qualities in a league comprised mainly of older players.

    Tamir hasn’t disappointed, scoring 13 points in his most recent hit-out, and guiding his side to an 11-point victory over rivals Be’er Tuvia.

    With plenty of opportunities for regular court time in a well-established competition, Tamir is looking forward to the year ahead.

    “This season with Na’an is my chance to take it to the next level,” Tamir said.

    “Getting paid to do what I love, living in a place like Israel, which I have such a special connection with, playing with a great team like Na’an – it’s a dream come true.”

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