“My heart is with the people of southern Israel and the soldiers who are fighting for us” Avdija & Israel readies for Auburn

Aug 7, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

The Israel National Team held their final practice ahead of Monday’s exhibition game against Auburn at Yad Eliyahu (20:30 Israel time).

Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija who is slated to play for the Blue & White spoke to the assembled media ahead of the game.

The last time Avdija played for his country was back a few years ago right before the COVID-19 pandemic, “I’m excited and I’ve waited for this moment as the Israel National Team is something that I love to be a part of. To come and represent the country, be together with my friends who I grew up with along with others that I have played with or played against in the league and to now come altogether ahead of the European Championship is something I’ve looked forward to.”

The same year that Avdija was drafted by the Wizards also saw Yam Madar selected by the Boston Celtics, “Me and Yam have a special relationship and we have a chemistry that is just not normal in my mind. We have gone through a lot together and it’s always great to play with him. But now to be able to play with each other again at the European Championships with the National Team along with the entire squad is just amazing.”

Deni Avdija – Photo Credit: Washington Wizards

Avdija has been both in the United States and Israel over the course of the summer working out as he readies for his third NBA season, “First off I want to become a better player, improve as both a player and as a person, take more of a leadership role, shoot at a higher percentage and of course improve every aspect of my game. This is something that I do every summer if I am 21 years old or 30, that’s just me as I want to continue getting better all of the time.”

Since Friday, there has been an ongoing conflict between the State of Israel and Islamic Jihad in Gaza as barrages of missiles continue to be shot into populated areas of the country, “The reality isn’t an easy one and I am sad to say that we are used to this already. My heart is with the people of southern Israel, everyone who is right on the Gaza Strip border and the soldiers who are fighting for us and are making a huge effort as without them we would not be here. There’s not much we can do, that’s the current situation and I hope that things will be better for us.”

Dylan Cardwell – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Despite the situation, Auburn University has stayed in the country and Avdija believes that this is something not to be taken for granted, “I think that this is important that Auburn is setting an example for everyone that they are not afraid and that they trust our army and the system that we have in place. This really shows a lot about our army and the safety of our country.”

Head coach Guy Goodes also spoke about the current about the upcoming exhibition contests as well as Avdija and Auburn.

“This is our first game ahead of the World Cup and my goal is to get the players into tip-top shape. We have another two players who just joined us in Tamir Blatt and Yovel Zoosman and we have a very deep squad that we have to mark sure we practice properly with.”

Guy Goodes – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Goodes, who will be coaching Avdija for the time with the National Team spoke about what the NBA forward brings to the table, “His last official game was back in April and he has to get into game playing shape like many of the other players and not just work out individually which is something he has done for quote some time. It’s a process and for some players it will be longer than others as each player is an individual and we have to pay attention that all of them will be at the same point later on. Monday’s game will be the first look to see what is working and what isn’t and what needs to be worked on, this is our starting point.”

Goodes continued discussing Avdija, “Deni is an NBA player and you can see that at times at practice whether it’s his level of intensity, athleticism and quickness that stands out. We have to work on Deni getting back to European style basketball which is a specific way of playing anf in some cases totally different. But he really wants to play and he doesn’t like to come off the floor and always wants to be in the thick of things which is something amazing. Slowly but surely we will come together as a team and not as just individual players.”

Guy Goodes – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

With a full slate of exhibition games this month, Israel begins with a date against Auburn who has been touring the country over the last couple of weeks and who have also played two games ahead of the clash. Goodes won’t have all of his players available for this game but there will be four more coming up at Georgia and home against Romania before flying out to Finland for a World Cup qualifier.

“That’s the situation and there’s not much we can do not having everyone available. Of course I wanted everyone to begin training at the same time and it saves me time from going back and reviewing things but the guys are veterans and they know one another. Right now we have 18 players on the roster and John Dibartolomeo will join the squad in a couple of days and from there we will move ahead. It’s very important that we go step by step in order to get into proper shape and get used to things in order to see how we stack up with other National teams.”

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