Nahariya and their coach Danny Franco have been retooling their squad for the upcoming WINNER League season and one of the new names on the team is 21-year old power forward Tomer Porat. A member of the Israel Under-20 National Tema that won the 2019 European Championship, Porat spoke to The Sports Rabbi on a myriad of topics just after inking his first premier league contract.
“I’ve been playing basketball since I was a young child and its as clear that my goal and my dream was to make it to the big leagues. But I still don’t feel that I have accomplished anything as I want to succeed and continue to improve. But all in all it’s super exciting to get to this point in my career.”
Porat will be collaborating with veteran coach Danny Franco who has won one Israeli league title to go along with a State Cup as well. “Coach said that he wants to see me continue to develop and that nothing is guaranteed in the top division including the more experienced players. I will try to do my best and give it my all on the court.”
In the summer of 2019, Porat was part of the Israel Under-20 National Team that went on to win the continental title under coach Ariel Beit Halachmi and recorded his best game of the tournament in the final against Spain. Israel took the championship game 92-84 and Porat scored 11 points in 14 minutes of action including an almost impossible basket from behind the hoop. Throughout the tourney, Porat averaged 3.1 points and grabbed 1.6 rebounds in 13.5 minutes a game.
“It was an incredible tournament and we may not have been the best team but the atmosphere of playing at home worked in our favor. With thousands of fans in the stands, they really were the 6th man. As for the final, I just wanted to contribute and I was happy to do so. Things came together and I really felt like I had a part in winning the title.”
“Coach Beit Halachmi was amazing and above all he was such a good person who knows the game of basketball. He was one of the best coaches that I have trained with and it’s not by chance that he has been successful.”
Porat had the opportunity to play with both Deni Avdija and Yam Madar who have entered the 2020 NBA Draft and look to play in the best league in the world, “Deni first and foremost is a terrific player and the best here in Israel. But he’s also a great guy off of the court who invests a ton of himself and is one that is well liked by his peers. I want to wish him the best of luck, he deserves it.”
“As for Yam, any time someone says that he can’t do this or that, he does it. I believe that eh can play in the NBA and those who really understand basketball saw what he did against Maccabi Tel Aviv, his qualities and talent. I really hope that he can succeed and reach his dreams.”
Porat grew up in the Hapoel Kfar Saba youth system and then moved to Maccabi Tel Aviv when he was a bit older, “I began playing basketball in an afterschool program when I was 6 or 7. My mother asked if I would like to go to the sessions in Kfar Saba and I said that sounded fine. I ended up staying and everything kept going from there. I wanted to be the best that I could be and although I didn’t have a role model per se, I took things from various different players that I enjoyed watching.”
From Kfar Saba, Porat moved on to Maccabi Tel Aviv as his career continued to develop, “Kfar Saba has an excellent youth program and is one of the biggest in the country. I moved to Maccabi because I felt I needed a change and the level of professionalism was fabulous. I worked with some great people, Oren Ahaoroni and others who helped me continue to develop and are a huge part of who I am today.”
With the yellow-and-blue the Porat was able to play with Yovel Zoosman who is one of Maccabi’s key players today, “Zoos is incredible and a fantastic defensive player and just a terrific player in general. He deserves everything that he is getting today and is one of the most important players at Maccabi. It’s special that a player at his age is able to be where he is and I want to see him continue to succeed.”
In 2017-18 Porat played as a professional with Maccabi Hod HaSharon in the Leumit League and averaged 2.1 points and 1.5 boards in 7 minutes per game. The following season he moved to Hapoel Kfar Saba and raised his game by scoring 7.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in almost 20 minutes a contest.
“When you move up to the first team, it doesn’t matter what you did as a youth player, it’s a totally different operation altogether. You won’t be given anything and it was a tough season. I ended up getting a chance to play but it was very difficult to get the opportunities coming up from the youth league. However, you learn how to play with older players as the physical side of the game is much different and this is very important.”
“I really enjoyed playing with Kfar Saba as this was the team that I saw play so many times in my youth. I would look up to the players and cheer them on. I was happy that I was able to play and help the team as much as I could, especially for the team that I had grown up with. It was closing the circle for me.”
This past season, Porat played with Maccabi Raanana where he averaged 4 points and 3.1 rebounds in roughly 13 minutes per game. However, the start of the season was a bit rough for him, “I traveled to Japan after we won the European Championship and when I came back it was already September and I needed to have an operation that wasn’t connected to basketball. But the surgery affected me as it was a stomach operation and I lost a lot of weight and I never was able to get into proper shape the entire season.”
“I certainly didn’t have a great season and people like to talk, but they don’t know the entire story and that is frustrating sometimes. I was hospitalized for a long time and I lost weight along with my fitness and I want able to get back to where I needed to be. I wanted to really help Raanana but I wasn’t able to as much as I would have wanted to.”
As for the upcoming season, Porat’s first in the WINNER League, he has set some modest goals for himself, “I want to work hard above all and do the best that I can. If I can do that, then I believe that I will succeed and continue to develop. I hope that I will be able to get minutes and do well. Slowly but surely I will be able to improve.”
Playing in the first division will be a test that for Porat and will look to draw on his experiences to be able to handle the pressure, “I think that everything that I have been able to experience as a player will help me become better and has aided me along the way to where I am now.”
As for the senior Israel National team, Porat looks at that as a goal for any Sabra, “Playing for Israel is the dream of any young child and there are a lot of players that are my age who will be able to help out our league as we begin to change generations. One can already see this happening with Deni Avdija, Yam Madar, Yam Madar as well as those who are a bit younger like Noam Dovrat. There is a bright future for blue-and-white basketball and it will be interesting to see who will take up the places of the past generation.”
While Porat’s career is just at the beginning he has set his eyes on his ultimate dream and goal as he looks ahead, “Truthfully, the biggest dream for a player is to find a club that he can make an impact and be comfortable at. A place where there are fans and a team where one can enjoy basketball and become forever tied to. At the end of the day, we are working at a job that may would love to be able to work at and we are enjoying what we are doing. Ultimately I want to be a big part of a club and enjoy my time there.”