Israeli Deni Avdija lit up the NBA Basketball Without Borders Global Camp held in Charlotte this past weekend, taking home the MVP honors. The 18-year old will be eligible for the 2020 NBA Draft and is projected to be a lottery pick. The Sports Rabbi met the next Jewish basketball star at the airport on his return to Israel as he summed up the experience of a lifetime.
“I had an amazing week that was yet another experience for me along the way and one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I made a lot of new friends, met new coaches who are of the highest level and it was just a joy to be there for the NBA All-Star week. It was incredible to practice at their arena and the whole event was just terrific.”
The BWB camp offered Avdija the chance to meet and play with teenagers from around the world including Killian Hayes from France and Khalifa Diop of Senegal, “The camp was able to help me play a different type of game and I got to know many new players. I was introduced to some new styles that I hadn’t seen before and I was able to hold my own in what was an important milestone and benchmark for me.”
One of the advantages of having the camp over the NBA All-Star week means that Avdija and the other players were exposed to many coaches and former players from around the basketball world, “I met a lot of interesting people and coaches from around the world. There were some players I knew and I met Shawn James and Andrew Kennedy. Many others introduced themselves to me and it was a pleasure to meet so many new people.”
Avdija has played roughly 10 minutes a games scoring 2.9 points for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel Basketball League action so far this season. In Euroleague play the phenom has played in 4 games, “I’m not really looking at the camp as away that will help me to not help me play more minutes. I will continue to work hard just I have done up until now. The camp gave me fantastic motivation to continue on the path that I am on and now it’s time for me to get back and focus on the Israel National Team camp. I’m living the moment and everything will come in due time.”
After winning a Gold Medal with Israel at the Under-20 European Championships this past summer, Avdija was called up to the senior squad and is slated to make his debut for the Blue & White on Thursday against Germany, “It’s a huge honor for me to be able to represent my country at such a young age. It’s a dream to have the opportunity to represent my country that began when I first started playing basketball. It’s very exciting and I can’t wait to join my teammates for practice and the upcoming games.”
With Slovenian Luka Doncic having a fabulous rookie year with the Dallas Mavericks, there is the school of thought that Avdija may be the next great players coming out of Europe, “That says some good things about me. I have a lot of respect for Luka Doncic and all of the great things he is doing in the NBA. But each one of us has our own path and journey to take which is different. I respect him, but I believe that I am special in my own way and I’ll be Deni Avdija who will remain special as I go on my path and my journey.”
But Avdija wants to take each day one at a time as he prepares for what seems to be his destiny, “Right now I am focussing on my progress at Maccabi Tel Aviv and to play for the National Team. As for the NBA, we will cross that bridge when we get to it.”