The National Basketball Academy
2014 Tournament Schedule:
Listed here are the current, active League/AAU Team Programs at the National Basketball Academy. Click on the program name to get access to schedules, results, and other pertinent documents for the program.
AAU/Teams at the National Basketball Academy
We have numerous different teams that compete at every level, from youth recreation to premier AAU competition. No matter what your skill or commitment levels are, we have a team that suits you. We select all our coaches to guarantee you will improve as a player and have a great experience. Our teams have quickly become a respected force in the basketball community as we have had growing success since the beginning of our program. We hope that you will join us and help expand our winning reputation!
Upcoming 2014 Season AAU/Team Information
CA – Loma Linda – Click here for information
FL - Orlando area – Click here for information
IN – Indianapolis area: Boys & Girls – Click here for information
OH – Cleveland: East Side, Boys – Click here for information
Thoughts: Basketball players today think that they are good if can they can shoot three pointers and dunk. Players want to play 5 on 5 all summer thinking this will make them better. Typical AAU teams are a great example of what is wrong with basketball today. Too many coaches are worried about just winning games and refuse to focus on the fundamentals of the game. The National Basketball Academy AAU teams will focus on improving the skills of each player during fundamental work at practice. At least half of each practice will be focused on teaching and improving the fundamental skills of each player. Our main goal in the program is to have each player leave the team with better skills than when they came and to know what they need to work on to become an even better player. The games are where they get a chance to practice the skills they are taught and of course we want to win as many games as we can.
Coaches: Coaches for these teams will be hand selected by the National Basketball Academy and will attend a clinic given by the Academy. The professional trainers from the Academy will be attending a number of practices to aid the coaches in skill development throughout the season. The coaches will be running and teaching a man-to-man defense and a motion offense to all teams. This offense and defense will give players great insight on how they should be playing all the time. If you are interested in coaching a team please call 216-378-0932.
Investment: The investment required for your player to participate in our AAU program, fluctuates based on the number of tournaments, gear, practice facility cost, insurnance, and coaches. Fund raising opportunites are sometimes undertaken to help in this cost. For more information on your costs and fund rasing opportunities, please contact the AAU director for your city. Please note, due to the significant upfront costs to run a great program, once a player becomes accepted on a team, all monies paid are non-refundable.
This year’s Alonzo Gee Summer Basketball Camps were held July 22-26, 2013 in Rocky River and Middleburg Hts. And ”Gee” these basketball camps sure were fun! Alonzo Gee visited and showed the campers a great time. His visit began with a great question and answer sessions. Alonzo answered questions about his professional and college careers and gave insight to his life as he was growing up.
Then Alonzo moved to the the various skill stations and worked directly with the campers, helping them practice and implement the Triple Threat stance. Specifically on how it is used to attack the hoop and score. He also demonstrated how he uses the very same moves in NBA games!
We also had a Alonzo Gee Trivia Contest. When the camper answered the question correctly, they got an opportunity to play a little one-on-one with Alonzo!
Of course everyone wanted an autograph. Alonzo signed balls, shoes, cards, shirts, and jerseys… including a Miami Heat, Dwayne Wade jersey!
And being cheered on with the chants of “Dunk, Dunk, Dunk…”, Alonzo fulfilled everyone’s desire to see him throw it down!
A great time was had by all. To re-live some of the camp experience, click on the images below and view the albums of camp pictures we took during the event:
We want to thank everyone for attending this year’s Alonzo Gee Basketball Camps. We hope to see you at next year’s camps!
The Tristan Thompson Overnight Basketball Camp was a great success. The National Basketball Academy’s annual event was hosted this year at Baldwin Wallace University located in Berea, Ohio, July 7-11. Over 110 campers attended the Northeast Ohio event with attendees coming from all over Northeast Ohio, Cincinnati, Alaska, plus 27 players and coaches from Greece.
The camp week sure did go fast! The coaches had a great time teaching and playing basketball this week. The campers were quick to learn - everyone learned something new to help improve their game while having fun.
We added to the world’s collection of Harlem Shake Dance videos:
Cleveland Cavalier Tristan Thompson was a hit with everyone. His question and answer session with the kids really was informative and insightful. This session has been uploaded to the web for those who want to re-hear it (or hear it for the first time).
Listen to Part 1 here:
Listen to Part 2 here:
Tristan signed autographs for all on anything and everything -basketballs, shoes, to the shirts on their backs. And the moves he showed on the floor with the Cleveland Cavaliers Dream Team…. well Tristan proved he can move more than just a basketball on the court.
To re-live the camp experience, click HERE to view the camp pictures we took during the event:
We want to thank everyone for attending this year’s Tristan Thompson Overnight Basketball Camp. We hope to see you at next year’s camp!
July 15, 2013: An article written by Robert Rozboril, Sun News. Robert visited the camp and interviewed Shane Kline Ruminski, Tristan Thompson, some of the camp directors, participants, and parents. Click HERE to view his article online:
A future point guard and his sister taking a moment to pose with the Cleveland Cavaliers Dream Team.
Shane was recently interview by Kiley and Booms on 92.3 The Fan radio program. Shane shared his insights on the current basketball playoffs, the upcoming draft, and the National Basketball Academy’s Cavaliers Summer Basketball Camps. Listen to the interview here:
As a member of the National Basketball Academy you will receive up to 20% off the “Best Available Rate” at participating locations when you travel. Book online or call and give the agent your special discount ID number 1000010649 at time of booking to receive discount.
Whether you are looking for an upscale hotel, an all-inclusive resort or something more cost-effective, we have the right hotel for you… and at the right price. So start saving now. Call our special member benefits hotline 800-364-6176 and reserve your room today at one of these fine hotels:
Wyndham Hotels and Resorts®
Wyndham Grand Collection®
TRYP® by Wyndham
Wingate® By Wyndham
Baymont Inns and Suites®
Hawthorn Suites® By Wyndham
Microtel Inns and Suites® By Wyndham
Our friend and client, Reggie King has had quite the hurdle to overcome this year. Here’s his story (published on March 2, 2013 at HeraldOnline.com, written by Bret McCormick).
In early October, Reggie King should have been with his Winthrop men’s basketball teammates, wind-sprinting through the first weeks of his senior season. Instead, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound point guard was on an operating table, tubes snaking in and out of his body.
A heart arrhythmia had handcuffed his ability to hustle on the court and to jump-start his team by being an example in practice – King’s defining attributes on the hardwood. Because of the condition, teammates could place their hands on his chest and feel his heart pounding, churning like it was about to burst through the skin.
At the Cleveland Clinic operating room in October, doctors worked to correct the arrhythmia. It was just the latest in a life full of ordeals for King, who will suit up Saturday for his last home game at Winthrop.
But this ordeal was abnormal. His heart had never been called into question.
“What makes him who he is,” said former Winthrop coach Randy Peele, “is his heart.”
A new family
Alex Demetriou’s family lived in the affluent northwestern suburbs of Chicago, and he and his older brother, Steven Jr., constantly hosted…
Please click HERE to read the rest of the story at the HeraldOnline.com:
July 4-7 at Baldwin Wallace College. In partnership with the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, the National Basketball Academy is proud to present the 2013 Continental Cup! This tournament is open to teams from around the world and will be hosted in Cleveland, Ohio this summer. Championship games will take place at Quicken Loans Arena and participants have the opportunity to take part in multiple tourism excursions around the city. Click here for more information.
Look around any gym Alexandria Harris happens to be in and she’s going to catch your eye. At 6-2 and possessing a physically strong build, she’s the forward coaches love to work with. Playing with TNBA out ofOhio, she continues to show all the potential and possibilities that have had recruiters looking her way the past couple of years. Now entering her senior season she appears ready to provide the consistency and high impact play that will translate into top tier Division I basketball in the near future. Her skills appear more refined while her decisions are much better read and made based on what she sees rather than her previous impulse attack. There appears to be a much more aggressive approach at creating her own opportunities with solid cuts and a wide, low post up that defenders can only dream about getting around. Harris has the speed to get out on the break but you hope first and foremost she’s the trigger with a strong effort on the defensive boards. On the defensive end she still tends to defend after the catch rather than taking away options but more advanced and mature competition will force her to make that change or take a seat on the bench.
Alexandria being interviewed for a Kentucky TV station.
All-Ohio Nike City Championship Series Roundup
Cleveland represented our city well in the Nike City Series in Columbus last weekend (October 27-28, 2012) winning the 4th, 5th, 7th, and 10th grade divisions out of all 6 cities represented (Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Cincinatti, Akron). MVP from Cleveland of the 4th division Seth Wilson, 5th Shemarr Morrow, 7th Coryon Rice. Some of the players from Cleveland in the High School divisions for Cleveland recognized individually by John Stovall (ESPN Analyst) are as follows:
Rosel Hurley – Shaker Heights, OH./H.S.
6’4 180 -2014- SG
Hurley is a super long and thin wing with loads of talent. He is a streaky shooter with range to 20 feet. He is very good attacking the rim and scoring in the paint. Rosel is great in transition and his athletic ability allows him to finish well above the rim. Hurley is a talented wing that should be able to breakout this high school season and next spring.
Esa Ahmad – Shaker Heights, OH./H.S.
6’6 200 -2015- PF/SF
Ahmad is a skilled and improving combo forward. He is best right now as a skilled 4 man that can score off the bounce and shoot with accuracy to 19 feet. When his motor is running high he is very effective. He can score and rebound with the best.
Willie Jackson – Garfield Heights, OH./H.S.
6’4 185 -2016- SF
Willie is a very athletic wing. He can execute highlight reel dunks in transition or in the halfcourt. Jackson has improving skills and has become a solid shooter from 17 feet and in. He is excellent on the low block where he can post up and score over most of his opponents.
Trevell Beck – Cleveland, OH./Central Catholic
6’5 185 -2016- SF/SG
Beck is a super skilled wing. He is a natural scorer that is quick and athletic. He is great off the dribble and is tough to keep out of the lane. He is an improving shooter and is fairly consistent out to 19 feet. Beck has great size now and has good growth potential. He has a chance to be very special.
Derek Funderburk – Lakewood, OH./St. Edward
6’8 185 -2016- PF/C
Funderburk is a very thin post player. He has great length and has good and developing skill. He has a nice face up jumpshot to 15 feet. He is a good shotblocker but needs to add more bulk in order to improve his ability to battle in the paint. Derek is good now and has an even better upside.
July 8-13, 2012 AAU National Tournament, Cincinnati, Ohio
Congratulations are in order for the National Basketball Academy’s 4th grade boys travel team – TNBA WEST ELITE! The boys brought home the 2nd Round Championship from the AAU National Tournament held this year in Cincinnati, Ohio. To reach their accomplishment, the boys had to beat teams from all over the country – Minnesota Magic, Team Nebraska, Memphis Runnaz, Memphis War Eagles, Texas 2020. In addition to the trophy and medals, this victory gains them an automatic bid to return to the National Tournament next year.
Ranked #9 in the nation in their division this year, team TNBA WEST ELITE is pictured below. From left to right, back row: Coach Steve Vega, Tanner Russel (Avon Lake), Jack Burdett (Hudson), Shemar Morrow (Cleveland), Grant Huffman (Aurora), Christian Pfeiffer (Lorain), Coach Dwayne Hightower. From left to right, front row: Team manager Luke Wilson, Tae Perie (Green), Devin Hightower (Aurora), Seth Wilson (Lorain), Connor O’Toole (Avon). Team sponosors: Dr. Neil Smith and Basketball Assist.
July 8-12,2012, Lake Erie College, Painesville, Ohio. This year’s annual overnight basketball camp presented by the National Basketball Academy and the Cleveland Cavaliers, featured Daniel “Boobie” Gibson. Along with multiple appearances from Daniel Gibson, was an apperance by Ahmaad Crump and the Cavaliers Scream Team. A great time was had by all as you can see by the following video.
Click HERE to visit 0ur Facebook page to see photos that were taken at camp.
Photos by Brandon Dohner and Debbie Ribinskas.
June 27, 2012
The Los Angeles Clippers and The National Basketball Academy are providing Youth Hoops Programs this summer both in Los Angeles County and Orange County. This series of five-day camps throughout the summer is designed to improve the skill level of all youth basketball players. Our experienced coaching staff teaches players fundamentals, practice habits, and teamwork while implementing them in game-like situations. All participants receive a Clippers Camp t-shirt, wristband, and basketball, plus a ticket to a future Los Angeles Clippers regular season home game.
We held our first camp sessions of the summer from June 18-22 in both Loma Linda and Garden Grove. Players took advantage of the wealth of knowledge of the coaches and learned from each other as well. Through the drills and game-like scrimmages, players gained valuable lessons that they will take with them through their basketball careers. The dates and locations of our next camps are:
Long Beach Poly High School
1600 Atlantic Ave
Long Beach, CA 90813
July 9-13, 9:00am-2:30pm $275
Memorial Community Center
1401 Olympic Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90404
July 9-13, 9:00am-2:30pm $275
Campers will be separated by gender, age and ability whenever possible.
Other camp dates and locations are posted at http://www.thebasketballacademy.com/.
The National Basketball Academy sponsors, organizes and operates boys and girls tournaments and weekend shootouts. You can register for these events online in the Registration Section on the website.
Published: Friday, January 20, 2012
By Bill TiltonEric Truog is a rare combination of size and skill, but maybe his most unique attribute could be that the Kenston senior is fine living and working in a neighborhood most players only like to visit.
Truog isn’t interested in shooting 3s. He has no desire to dribble the ball up the court and break the press. Faking out a defender on the wing and driving the ball to the basket is not high on his basketball to-do list.
The 6-foot-10 Marist recruit is most at home by the basket.
And this season, the reigning CVC Chagrin MVP isn’t the only local standout whose time on the hardwood is mainly spent playing close to the rim.
High school basketball in this area is traditionally a guard-driven game.
This year is no exception as a plethora of talent is flowing out of local backcourts with the likes ofMentor’s Justin Fritts, University’s Jordan Barham andLakeCatholic’s Joey Vuyancih lighting up scoreboards on a near nightly basis.
But Truog, averaging 22 points and 13 rebounds per game, and a handful of others are proving that the traditional back-to-the-basket post player has not gone the way of the dinosaur just yet.
“We kind of take it for granted with Eric because we see him every day and we have had the luxury of having him on the block for four years, but it is unique to see so many guys in the area right now who have worked hard to become good at playing with their back to the basket,” Kenston coach Josh Jakacki said.
“It’s almost like a throwback to the old days because you don’t see players like that all that much anymore.”
More times than not, the top “bigs” in the area like to run the floor, play a wing/post hybrid position, shoot 3s and play a little one-on-one on the outside.
There are some of those types this year around the area when you consider players such as Mentor sophomore Brandon Fritts, Benedictine’s Mike Roberts (6-6), Harvey’s Robbie Jackson (6-6) and Brush’s Curtis Oakley (6-4) are a few of the players who have the skill to play on the low block, but will also step outside and get up and down the floor.
Fritts (6-foot-4) plays primarily with his back-to-the-basket, and has emerged as a double-double threat, but in the Cardinals’ high-energy, up-tempo offense, there aren’t a lot of entry passes to the low block and clear outs for a post player to go one on one.
True post players are rare as the game has evolved, but Truog — along with Brush senior Pharaoh Brown,RichmondHeightssenior Tommy Scales, VASJ junior Demonte Flannigan and NDCL junior Chris Shkil — have given the area a definitive presence in the paint.
“There are not a ton of back to the basket guys anymore, at least not the true low post players and that goes all the way to the NBA,” said Shane Kline-Ruminski, Director of Basketball Operations for The National Basketball Academy. “There are no Kevin Mchales, if you look at it. And in high school, big guys can’t look at the pros and say I wanna be like so and so in the NBA. There is no Hakeem Olajuwon or Patrick Ewing. Those type guys dominated low post position.”
Kline-Ruminski certainly knows what he is talking about when it comes to discussing true post players. The 1990 West Geauga graduate played four years at Bowling Green, where the 6-8, 210-pounder was named Mid-American Conference freshman of the year. Now, theNationalBasketballAcademyworks with 12 NBA teams, two WNBA teams and between 80 and 100 high school players, including a handful of post players.
As for the lack of true back-to-the-basket player at the high school level, Kline-Ruminski said there are several factors, including the evolution of the athlete and the game.
“The 6-8, 6-7 kids in the post don’t come along that often, but when they do, you can tell they have been developed at some point,” Kline-Ruminski said. “You can’t just stick them there. They have to learn how to play.
“The game has advanced. The game is so fast. Watch the NCAA tournament. Look at how quick these teams play. The dribble drive offense, dribble and kick out is popular now, so it is tough to develop the post player. Teams are not comfortable with post players.”
Brush has had a long line of playmakers at guard and wing in recent years, none more than 2009 News-Herald Player of the Year Nate Tait.
While there are still plenty of options on the outside for the Arcs, there is no denying the impact Brown (17 points, 11 rebounds per game) has made in the paint since coming over fromRichmondHeightsafter his freshman season.
“For us and the way we want to play, it’s huge having a guy like Pharaoh who is willing to play in the paint with his back to the basket,” Brush coach Jayson Macauda said of theOregonfootball recruit. “I can count every night on six or eight points — what I call garbage points — because of his offensive rebounding. We haven’t always had that presence, going back to the days when we had Nate Tait and some of those teams, we have had great guard play, but not always that big guy you can rely on.
“Only one team around here that I can think of that has gotten away consistently without having a true back-to-the-basket post presence for years (Mentor).”
Truog, a two-time CVC Chagrin MVP and third-team All-Ohio selection as a junior, said being 6-10 is obviously a natural gift and an advantage he can use in the post against most high school forwards or centers, but height alone is not enough.
Fine-tuning his skills not only helps the undefeated Bombers win games, it is a must after his highly decorated prep career is finished. Particularly because he knows life in the paint changes next year when he gets to the Division I college level.
“I’ve always been tall. I used to be skinny and shy away from playing down low, but as I’ve gotten stronger and more physical, I thrive in that position and I feel like the post is the place I am best suited for,” Truog said. “I was very uncoordinated early in my career, but as I got stronger and the more I worked on my footwork, now I am comfortable in the paint and confident I can help my team.
“You don’t always get the glory or the six 3-pointers in a quarter or score 40 points. There’s foul trouble to deal with and you get beat up and bruised, especially by the smaller teams. But you just have to keep your cool and do what you do best.”
The best doesn’t always come on the offensive end. Scales recently recorded a triple-double with 10 blocked shots against Kirtland and is a big reason the Spartans are state-ranked and 9-1.
Shkil is not as well known as the other aforementioned big men, but he is a player that Kline-Ruminski said has the potential to play Division I college basketball in the Ivy League.Flannigan has been among the best at his position since he stepped onto the storied floor at Viking Village in 2009. Flannigan was named All-Ohio as a freshman, and this year he is averaging 19.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.
Flannigan has the athleticism and the physical tools to play almost any position, but he enjoys playing with his back to the basket and trying to attack the opposition around the rim.
“I just have to be strong with the ball, and the post is where I can be most productive,” Flannigan said. “In seventh and eighth grade, I played the 2 or the 3 because I was able to handle the ball and beat the press. But since I got to VASJ, I have been the biggest man here, except now with freshman Carlton Bragg.
“One of the main things that changes the game is when you make a strong move in the post or dunk on someone, it can really get your team going.”
Originally Published at:
Gabe Margolis stood in a hallway outside the gym at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood on a recent April evening, clutching a miniature basket and an Israeli flag. Barely able to contain his excitement, he hoped to meet the player whom some Cavaliers fans consider to be the biggest disappointment of the season.
Dressed in a gray sweat suit, Omri Casspi had spent about an hour with 70 kids at a youth basketball clinic, offering instruction, answering questions and, as 11-year-old Sam Spiegel put it, “showing us we’re not alone out there.”
As the spindly 6-9 forward emerged from the gym with his brother and sister-in-law at his side, he spotted Margolis and greeted him in Hebrew:
“Ma sh’lom’cha [how are you]?” Casspi asked.
He spoke briefly in English to the 23-year-old Beachwood resident and posed for a picture with the flag before heading into the night.
“It was an inspiring moment,” Margolis said, clinging to an autographed picture of Casspi. “I am literally shaking from the opportunity to meet him.”
Some athletes represent a hometown, a college, a nation. Casspi, the first Israeli-born player to play in the NBA, represents a people. It is an honor and a responsibility Casspi does not take lightly.
From the diamond-encrusted Star of David he wears around his neck to the numerous appearances he makes inClevelandand other NBA cities, Casspi embraces a role that might give other high-profile athletes pause.
It has been a trying first season in Cleveland — one that has seen him lose his starter’s spot, placed him momentarily at odds with coach Byron Scott over his knowledge of the playbook and produced career-low offensive numbers.
But the 23-year-old understands nobody wants to hear his problems when they wait 30 minutes after a game just for a chance to say hello.
“You have to remember you have little kids coming to see you,” Casspi said. “They don’t care as much about what you did in a particular game, but what you represent to them.”
The white-and-blue Israeli flag has been spotted in many arenas in which the Cavs have played this season. Except for rookie Kyrie Irving and Scott, Casspi is perhaps the club’s most requested player, team officials confirmed.
On the road, he grants interviews to everyone from mainstream media outlets to local Jewish newspapers to an East Coast blogger for a website called “The Sports Rabbi.” Several weeks ago, two journalists fromIsrael’s most widely circulated paper flew toClevelandto spend time with him.
“It’s a big deal back inIsrael,” said Cavaliers guard Anthony Parker, who played one season alongside Casspi with Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv. “He’s got a lot of eyes on him, and what he does on the court is scrutinized.
“It’s a gift and a curse when you are the first player from a country like that. When you have success, everyone is around you and behind you. When things aren’t going so well, you get the flip side of it.”
In his third NBA season, Casspi continues to help other franchises sell tickets as their group sales departments reach out to Jewish community centers and synagogues. Some clubs hold “Jewish Heritage Nights” in places such asNew Jersey,MilwaukeeandCharlotte, and feature postgame meet and greets with Casspi.
Rubbing his black beard, the small forward said he remains unencumbered by all the attention and demands. Whatever trailblazing pressure he felt during his rookie season with the Sacramento Kings in 2009 has vanished.
“I think almost every player would want to be in my position at the end of the day,” Casspi said. “People coming to support you, day in and day out, has been great, and getting a chance to interact with the Jewish community inAmericais even greater.”
Commitment to country
Part of Casspi’s appeal is that he seems to take as much pride in his people as they take in him. Visitors to his Twitter account, @Casspi18, find an athlete connected to his roots and history.
On Wednesday, he re-Tweeted the following message: “It’s the Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day inIsrael. Please RT for support. Remember all the six million who were killed.”
One of his most moving Tweets included a picture of himself and Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, taken inOrlandoduring NBA All-Star Weekend in late February. “Dreamed about this moment for a long, long time,” Casspi wrote.
Shalit, 25, is a member of the Israel Defense Forces, captured by Hamas militants and held for five years until his release on Oct. 18, 2011, as part of a prisoner exchange deal. Two years ago, Casspi traveled toIsrael’s capital city ofJerusalemto lend support to the family at a protest outside the prime minister’s residence.
“Just think about what his parents had gone through,” he said. “A lot of people back home can relate because they have to serve, and it could happen to anybody.
“They released over 1,000 prisoners with blood on their hands. It’s not an easy issue. A lot of families have lost their sons and kids over suicide bombers and people like that.”
Each able-bodied 18-year-old must serve three years in the Israel Defense Forces. Casspi was among a select few granted “outstanding athlete” status from the IDF’s sports committee. While he attended basic training and learned to fire a gun, he remained with the Maccabi basketball team, having to report only several times per week to a Tel Aviv base.
His older brother, Eitan, who lives with Casspi inCleveland, was a paratrooper. His younger sister, Aviv, currently serves the IDF. Casspi is grateful to the men and women who protectIsrael’s freedom.
“It’s a small country that is bordered on three sides by enemies who want to kill us,” Casspi said. “People are trying to fight us while we are trying to keep democracy alive in theMiddle East.”
Casspi, however, draws a distinction between the politics of an “enemy state” and its people. Among his best friends on the Cavaliers is a Muslim, Semih Erden, ofTurkey. They discuss the conflicts in the region and the best avenues to peace.
“I don’t think the people ofEgyptare bad, they are great,” Casspi said. “Wars are fought over politics and religion, and it’s always going to be this way.”
In late February, Casspi received word from a mutual friend: Shalit was coming toOrlandoand wanted to meet him.
They ate dinner, drank wine and talked hoops. Shalit is a huge basketball fan. He learned of Casspi’s travels toAmericaand his first-round selection by the Sacramento Kings in 2009 while listening to Maccabi games during his confinement. As the evening unfurled, there was little question who appeared more starstruck.
“I was . . . it was a great honor to see him and meet him.” Casspi said.
Looking to improve
Casspi is not the first Jew to play in the NBA. The New York Knicks had four Jewish starters in 1946 while participating in the Basketball Association of America, a forerunner to the NBA. American-born Dolph Schayes joined the Syracuse Nationals in 1964 and made 12 All-Star teams.
In recent years, however,New Jersey’s Jordan Farmar was the only Jewish player of distinction until Casspi’s debut three years ago. The son of Shimon and Ilana Casspi grew up idolizing Michael Jordan and watching Parker win titles with Maccabi Tel Aviv.
InSacramento, Casspi wore No. 18, which represents “Chai” or life to Jews, and doubled it inClevelandbecause Parker has dibs on the number. The Cavaliers sell No. 36 jerseys in the team gift shop with the Hebrew spelling of Casspi on the nameplate. He hopes those replicas will be available for years to come.
Casspi, who has one season remaining on his current contract, must improve his play to remain with the rebuilding franchise. He came to training camp still feeling the effects of an off-season knee injury suffered while playing for the national team and could not find a rhythm.
Casspi is averaging 7.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and shooting 40.2 percent from the field — the worst totals of his three-year NBA career. He lost his starting spot to Alonzo Gee in early March and had to defend his familiarity with the team playbook. If the franchise drafts or acquires a small forward this summer, Casspi could be expendable.
Although his production has increased in recent weeks, Casspi doesn’t deny the disappointment in his performance.
“It has been a tough season as a team and as an individual,” Casspi said. “I know what I can do and what I need to get better at. I feel I have yet to play to my potential.
“I have my own ideas why [he struggled], but my focus is try to end the season strong.”
Casspi likely will retain a passionate following as long as he stays in the NBA. He has no desire, he said, to play outside the league while in his prime.
Throughout the season, a group of fans sitting in a courtside corporate box at The Q have rooted for him, even attempting to gain his attention during timeouts.
“Jewish people get excited when one of their own succeeds,” said Elizabeth Elia of Solon, whose daughter, Tovah, attended the clinic. “It stirs something inside you and makes you feel excited and proud.”
In a season of great challenge, Omri Casspi has found resolve in the heroism of soldiers and the unwavering cheers of fans who don’t care how many 3-point shots he has missed.
Plain Dealer reporter Mary Schmitt Boyer contributed to this story. To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: email@example.com, 216-999-4370