(Courtesy of AFISCD) Basketball fans, especially those who follow Israeli basketball, are bursting with excitement over this year’s NBA draft rising star—Deni Avdija—from Maccabi Tel Aviv, who was selected ninth overall in the 2020 NBA draft by the Washington Wizards.
Since Avdija (pronounced Av DEE ya) was already in the U.S. preparing for the draft, he spoke via Zoom with wheelchair basketball champion (and terror attack survivor from Itamar) Asael Shabo, of the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled (ISCD).
American Friends of ISCD will broadcast the interview between these two passionate basketball players this Sunday, November 22, during their annual brunch, held virtually this year. Attendance is free (donations and sponsorships are encouraged). Registration is required at go60brunch.org to receive the event’s Zoom link.
Deni Avdija was the youngest player to ever play for Maccabi Tel Aviv when he signed with the team at age 16. At 6’9”, he plays the small forward and power forward positions. His selection by the Wizards makes him only the third player born in Israel to be drafted in the first round.
In addition to playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli Basketball Premier League and the EuroLeague, Avdija is also a member of the Israeli senior national team. He has won two gold medals for Israel at the youth level, including at the 2019 FIBA U20 European Championship, where he was named tournament MVP.
Asael Shabo is a true hero and inspiration. In 2002, when he was just 9 years old, terrorists broke into his family home in Itamar and opened fire, killing his mother and three of his brothers. Shabo survived by playing dead, though he lost his leg in the attack.
Soon after, Shabo began coming to the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled and, like all new participants, he began swimming. He was a natural at the sport and went on to break several Israeli swimming records in multiple categories. However, he found his true passion in wheelchair basketball.
Shabo recently completed two years of playing professional wheelchair basketball in Hamburg, Germany, and was one of the team’s star players. Today he is married, lives in Israel and works at ISCD in many capacities. Most important, he is a true role model for all the young athletes at the Center.
The Israel Sport Center for the Disabled is one of the world pioneers in the field of sport rehabilitation. Founded in 1960, ISCD was the first of its kind in Israel and one of the few operating at the time worldwide. In its early years, the Center was mostly utilized by poliovirus victims. Today the ISCD serves those with cerebral palsy, Israeli citizens injured during military service, victims of car and other accidents, victims of terrorist attacks and others challenged by disabilities. The Center specializes in the physical and psychological rehabilitation of children and youth and serves one of the highest percentages of physically challenged children in the world.
Today, more than 2,000 children and adults participate in 18 different sports activities at ISCD without discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race or ethnicity, making the Center a vital resource for Israel’s increasingly diverse population. In the last several years, the Center has grown more visible around the U.S. and abroad thanks to efforts of the Friends organization across the United States and the United Kingdom.