“I can’t fathom Travis not playing in the first division in Israel,” Doug Gottlieb, current USA Maccabiah coach, Fox Sports Radio host and former college standout point guard said about Travis Warech. “He brings to the table all of the attributes of a veteran to play here and he is so versatile as well. To me, as a former player in Israel, watching Travis and coaching him this past month, it is the no-brainer of the year to have him play in Israel.”
Travis Warech is currently playing with the USA Maccabiah Basketball Team and comes to Israel with a plethora of experience. Having played in Germany’s first and second divisions, the 26-year old is now looking for a new challenge and has turned his sights to playing in Israel.
“Israel has always been in the back of my mind but I didn’t have any basketball contacts that could steer me here when I was coming out of Ithaca college,” explained Warech. “The agency I signed with was based in Germany, so that is where I went first. But what I have found out over time is that Israel is not only a beautiful place but also has a very good basketball league. Being Jewish and coming to our homeland would mean a lot.”
The 6”3 Warech has been playing professional ball for the last four years in Germany. He spent two years playing in the second league and helped move the team up to the first division where he also spent a pair of seasons.
“I was born in Queens, New York and was raised by a basketball family in the suburbs of New Jersey, Basketball is basically all I’ve known for my entire life. My Dad played at NYU and I’ve even seen pictures of my grandma playing way back in the day. My dad or “Pops” was definitely my biggest role model growing up,” Warech commented.
“I gravitated to a lot of sports including baseball, soccer and I am still a big golfer. I grew up watching Philadelphia sports at my grandparents’ house in South Jersey and I loved Allen Iverson as a kid. He would put on a show every night, it was must see TV,” he continued.
In high school Warech played both the number 2 & 3 while averaging 21 points and 7 rebounds in his senior season at Montville, “I brought the ball up and got it back in the mid-post and played on the wing. I did a little of everything in High School.”
Heading to college proved to be yet another new challenge that Warech would dominate, “I received a scholarship to go to St. Michael’s in Division II which is one of the top D II school’s in the country. I was top 3 in freshman scoring (17ppg) and played well in the playoffs of my sophomore and junior year.”
Warech continued, “I then transferred to Ithaca for my senior season and we made a big run in the Division III NCAA tournament. We upset two big teams in the 1st round and in the 2nd round we held John DiBartolomeo who is now with Maccabi Tel Aviv to just 1 point as we won on a last second tip in. That unbelievable season is something that I’ll always remember.”
DiBartolomeo who was named Israeli League MVP last campaign with Maccabi Haifa and Warech have been close ever since that famous game in the college tourney, “I think our relationship began out of the competitive nature of that game and he was friends with one of my teammates at the time. We both graduated and looked to continue our playing careers, so we linked up in the summer and trained together. Having really good competition in John on the floor only makes you better.”
After college it was off to Germany for Warech who was able to obtain citizenship due to his family ties to the country, “The first question that my agent asked me was if I had relatives who were born in Germany and through that I found out that in fact I had a lot of German history in my family.”
In reality, Warech’s family had a long standing business in Hamburg, “My grandmother and her family owned two butcher shops in Hamburg but were forced to flee due to the Holocaust and went to Rotterdam first. From there some of my family moved to Israel and some to the America. I actually had the chance to play for Hamburg for one month before I was moved to the first-place team. I was also able to go with a student who wrote a piece about my family and about the people at the Jewish museum in the city. I visited their house and where the butcher shop used to be in addition to the synagogue they had grown up in. It was an unbelievable day and I’m getting chills just thinking about it. To see their name on the stumbling blocks outside the front of the house was incredible and very emotional.”
Going back to the present, representing the United States at the Maccabiah and playing under coach Doug Gottlieb has been a real experience, “It’s been great to work alongside Doug. He is a very influential person and definitely knows the game as well as everybody in the sports world. As far as the Maccabiah games go, I believe that there are two tiers. If you’re a younger athlete it’s to expose Jews from all over the world to what really goes on in Israel. Once they experience the true country they can go back home and become ambassadors relaying their experiences which will most probably be contrary to the media that everyone sees at abroad. The other tier is to find the top Jewish athletes from around the world, encourage them to come Israel and continue to play in the Holy Land.”
Warech’s desire to play at crossroads of the world is a passionate one, “I would love to continue my playing career in Israel. I’ve been at two Maccabiah’s in the country and it’s hard not to fall in love with the culture once you’ve been here. I could come in and be an impact player right off the bat in the first division with the goal of winning a championship.”