Geoff Gray is beginning his second year as a professional in Israel and will give The Sports Rabbi an exclusive view each week into what it’s like playing ball in the Holy Land!
For those who don’t know me, my name is Geoffrey Gray and I’m a 23-year-old Jewish-American from Boston, Massachusetts. After having a successful four-year career at Division Three Emerson College in downtown Boston, I decided I wanted to pursue my dreams of playing professional basketball. Upon graduating from Emerson in the Spring of 2019 with a degree in Marketing Communications and minor in Sports Communication, I put my Jewish heritage to work and obtained my Israeli passport by “making Aliyah,” giving me dual citizenship between the United States and Israel. At that point, all I had to do was wait for my agent, Matan Siman-Tov of 2Talent Sports, who I signed with that previous April, to find me a deal and I was moving on from living in the Boston area for the first time in my life.
Come late August, we were presented with an opportunity from Hapoel Eilat of the First Division, and after sitting on it for a couple days, I was set to begin my professional career. Playing in Eilat was a unique experience, both on and off the court. From playing against guys like Omri Casspi and NBA 3-Point Contest Champion Daequan Cook, to playing with guys that played for the same Celtics that I grew up obsessing over. Being a part of something like that was special, but I’ll save those stories for another time. For now, we can dive into a day in the life of a second-year pro during the novel Coronavirus.
After the pandemic put a halt to our season in mid-March, I returned home to Boston. The Winner League managed to formulate a restart to complete the season in the Summer, but I elected to stay home and assist my parents because of their limited options brought on by the Coronavirus. However, with the help of my current teammate and roommate Elijah Hirsch, another D3 second-year Jewish-American from Berry College, Matan was able to get me a deal with Ironi Kiryat Ata of Liga Leumit, Israel’s Second Division. I signed in late July and after a brief stint in Atlanta to work out with Matan, Deni Avdija, Shelvin Mack, John Jenkins, and other pros, I was off to Israel for the second time in late August.
The first two weeks were somewhat interesting, as every player coming from the States had to quarantine and therefore had to practice separately from the other Israelis. Once that was completed, we got to join the rest of the team and I was playing full court for the first time since March, and man did that feel good. Unfortunately, due to the countrywide lockdown, teams have had to close their gyms, but hopefully that doesn’t last long. I’ve been on some really good teams in my life and after getting in a couple weeks worth of scrimmages and practices here, I can tell you one thing, this team feels special. There’s nothing quite like playing with a great group of guys, living by the beach in warm weather all year long, having an abundance of free time, and getting paid to do what you love. If we can get past the obstacles brought on by the pandemic, it could be a great year. Stay tuned…