Ballers Shoot for Hoops Glory in the Promised Land

Tryouts for Israeli basketball team held in South Florida

It seems more and more US basketballers are going overseas to play professionally in other countries, but one country, Israel, is schlepping all the way to the South Florida every year to hold tryouts.

Dozens of hopefuls showed off their best jump shots for coaches and officials with the Maccabi Haifa at Nova Southeastern yesterday and today, hoping to earn a slot in the league that's starting to raise eyebrows.

"I think American players enjoy playing in what I would call a friendly warm environment, not only in the weather but in the culture," said Haifa owner Jeffrey Rosen, who is also a South Florida native.

The tryouts brought some former UM stars out looking for a shot at pro ball.

"It's something I always dreamed about," said former Hurricane Ray Hicks. "The Israeli league is a great league."

Joining Hicks was former teammate Brian Asbury, who admits his Israeli knowledge is limited.

"I don't know too much about it but I know it has good players, great competition," Asbury said.

Haifa coach Avi Ashkenazi says it's a common problem.

"They think Israel is a desert. Some of them are talking with me and they don't know where it is on the map," Ashkenazi said.

Only about 10 players from the US will be selected for the team, and though they want to play basketball badly, there is some trepidation.

"The first reaction of course is 'Is it safe, will I be OK?' and moms and dads are always concerned," Rosen said. "It's normal, it's totally relaxing and cool."

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