Top American Players Taking Talents To Israel

Israeli pro basketball team holds tryouts in South Florida

They've got NBA moves, but the reality is only so many talented basketball players can make it to the big leagues.

That's why 60 players, including dozens for former Division I College players and even a few former NBA players are trying out for Macabi Haifa, a professional basketball team in Israel, whose tryouts are held at the Jewish Community Center in Davie.

"The dream of every kid is to make it to the NBA," said Macabi Haifa owner Jeff Rosen, who's based in Aventura. "But only a small pool make it, so a good second option is to play overseas."

Macabi Haifa is one of the only international teams that holds a tryout on American soil. Former NBA 1st round draft pick Julius Hodge, who's played overseas the last three years was pleasantly surprised.

"It's definitely a relief not to have to fly to Israel to try out," the former NC State star said.

Macabi Haifa officials say the talent level at tryouts this year is higher than ever. Part of the reason is the expected NBA lockout. Players that may have tried to catch on with an NBA team are instead playing it safe and testing their luck with pro teams overseas. The other reason, Rosen says, is the attractiveness of Israel.

"When you get a job in China, or Japan or Russia, it's far away and the culture sometimes can be colder for Americans," Rosen said. "Israel's a very familiar country and it's a culture conducive to our players."

Playing pro ball in Israel isn't what Javi Gonzalez dreamed of as a star at Krop High School in North Miami Beach. But, getting paid to do what he loves, while exploring the world -- that's not a bad first job out of college.

"As many Jews as I've met in Miami, I never thought I'd play in Israel one day," Gonzalez said, "but I'd love to. I heard it's a great (country) and most of the people speak English there, so it wouldn't be that big of an adjustment, it would be great."

Follow Adam Kuperstein on Twitter at @akuperstein.

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