July 19, 2024
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Deni Avdija Continues to Deliver For Jewish and Israeli Fans

“He is the pride of the Jewish people. We always come out to support Deni,” said Matisyahu Zamir, a student at the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach.

The Zamir family came to Madison Square Garden from Woodmere hoping to see their beloved Deni Avdija and the Washington Wizards play against the New York Knicks. Elad Levi and his son came all the way from Tel Aviv — part of a 24-person tour group hoping to see their fellow countryman Avdija, the only Israeli in the NBA, play in several games.

Avdija scored in double digits in that game, for the fourth game in a row, with 14 points, as well as five rebounds and a career-high three blocks. It was his fifth multi-block game this season. The Wizards defeated the Knicks, 124-117.

“I like that [Avdija] is a really good shooter and his defense is pretty amazing too,” reported Matisyahu Zamir, a student at the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach in Woodmere. “He is the pride of the Jewish people. We always come out to support Deni.”

Like other Jewish and Israeli fans, the Zamirs enjoy following 20-year-old Avdija’s continued growth in his second year in the NBA. Very few fans saw Avdija play in person last season. He made his first appearance at the Knicks’ home of Madison Square Garden on March 23, 2021, and scored 14 points before fouling out in a Wizards loss. Due to COVID-19 rules at the time, the arena was at 10% capacity. One month later, on April 21, 2021, Avdija suffered a season-ending right fibular hairline fracture, followed by a long period of rehabilitation.

This season, Avdija is thriving on and off the court, though he could do without the day-to-day uncertainty of the pandemic. “To be in question is a bummer,” he sayid. “It is not fun, but we have to keep being safe. We have to just keep working ourselves.”

Avdija worked hard to return this season and he feels it is paying off. “I see progress every day and hope I will maximize my potential until I retire,” he said. “I learn new things every day and get better every day as I become a more complete player.” For instance, Avdija described that he is “more mature” and “knows what spots to shoot from,” and is learning to “trust my shot and not think too much.”

Wizards Head Coach Wes Unseld Jr. likes what he sees and has been giving Avdija more playing time. “He has progressed well,” he said. “We are putting him in different situations. I am learning to trust him more. His teammates are learning to trust him more. He is stepping up and making big plays —facilitating, scoring, and we have seen the defensive side of it. So, I think he is starting to put together a nice run here. If he can play this way night in and night out, this is going to be great for us.”

Unseld also admires Avdija’s energy and attitude. “His energy is always good. He is a very positive guy, doing things for his teammates,” he said.

Despite the many precautions in place due to COVID-19, Advija has had some opportunities to get to know the local Washington, D.C. Jewish community — and he enjoys speaking with Israeli media. Avdija recently lit Chanukah candles, signed autographs and answered questions from fans at the Rockville Town Center in Montgomery County, Maryland.

When asked what was his best moment of the year, Advija enthusiastically reported that it was being back in Israel for the first time and seeing friends, family and all of the support he has been receiving.

And Avdija’s New Year’s resolution? “That by the end of 2022 I will be better than I was at the end of 2021. That’s all I’m asking for. Just to be a better person, learn more, know more, and be a better player and to be healthy. That’s really important.”

By Howard Blas/JNS.org

 

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