Wizards select Israeli Deni Avdija in the 2020 NBA draft

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photo by Sean Rich

Ivan Endelman, Sports Editor

Teenage basketball phenom Deni Avdija will become the second Israeli to play in the NBA this upcoming season, after being drafted to the Washington Wizards as the ninth pick. 

Avdija, who is only 19 years old, received international attention with his impressive play for the Israeli basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv during the last three years, achieving milestones such as Israeli League MVP and three-time Israeli League champion. 

Avdija grew up on the northern Israeli kibbutz Beit Zera and was born into an athletic family, as both of his parents had previously played competitive sports. His mother was a runner and his father was a basketball player. 

Despite growing up in a country with less of a focus on basketball, Avdija excelled in all aspects of the game, which prompted some experts to predict his high draft pick this year. Wizards fans view Avdija as the clear choice for their pick and a great improvement to a team in need of quality players. 

“I knew he was supposed to get drafted fourth, but ended up going ninth, so he’s a pretty good player and is going to be very fun to watch, especially since he’s going to the Wizards,” junior Sean Rich said.

As a player hailing from a country with a population of fewer than 9 million people, Avdija’s selection has sparked a sense of joy for Israelis around the world, including middle and high school Hebrew teacher Anat Kaufman.

“The selection of Deni Avdija is very exciting for me as an Israeli because I feel great pride,” Kaufman said. “Israel is a small country and [it] feels that everyone knows everyone, so when an Israeli succeeds in a global way, it is everyone’s success.”

Kaufman sees Avdija not just as a surprising talent but as another Israeli following in the footsteps of recent stars such as actor Gal Gadot and singer Netta Barzilai, who have both achieved international fame. 

Although Wizards fans are excited to see the impact he can make on the struggling team, Avdija’s mere presence as an Israeli NBA player is monumental. 

“This definitely isn’t something you see every year, especially with such a young player who has such a bright future,” Rich said.