Mark Sack

I recently returned from an unexpected, whirlwind six-day trip to Israel. After spending significant time in Israel the past four summers, three for family weddings and one for a project between the Jewish Federation and the IDF, I had sadly accepted that this summer was too ‘jammed’ with other meaningful activities (familial and professional) for me to be able to get to Israel for my usual two to three week visit. Then in late May I received an email from Kineret Blatt (wife of good friend and Cavs coach David.) The Blatts had decided to combine ‘hoops’ and Zionism by starting to recruit what I identified as ‘basketball serious’ Jewish American teens to come to Kineret’s premier summer youth basketball camp located in Holon (Kineret is also a retired basketball player and actually met David when he was her coach back in the 1980’s). Her ‘True Player Basketball Camp’ (in Hebrew it’s called ‘Sachkan Amiti’) is located on the historic campus of the Mikveh Israel Agricultural School established in 1870. I was invited to come to check ‘True Player’ out to see if its basketball experience was something that might be attractive to American teens looking to improve their hoops skills (individual and team) while interacting with Israeli youth and touring key historical and modern-day sites in the Homeland. What I observed at the camp was an outstanding staff led by Oded Katash, the retired Michael Jordan of Israeli basketball and now head coach of one of Israel’s top professional teams. Not by coincidence, Oded had been coached by David early in his career and the Blatt’s 18 year old son, Tamir, one of the top young players in Israel, is currently coached by him. Knowing that the Blatts had hand-picked this coach for their son gave me a clue as to what to expect from the entire staff and I wasn’t disappointed. I observed how the enthusiasm and intensity of the counselors was contagious as the 75 campers (ages 11-17) worked hard from morning til night and had a lot of fun doing it. I also had the opportunity to work with kids and found that they were very keen about improving their shot. Unfortunately, the main shot they wanted to learn from a Clevelander was the ‘Delly Floater’. I gave it a try but it appeared that most of the players had been working on this shot since the NBA playoffs (they watched every Cavs game of the playoffs during their normal sleep hours) and were better at the ‘Delly Floater’ than me! I lost several ‘Delly Floater’ contests.I came back to Cleveland with the strong feeling that ‘Blatt basketball’ combined with meaningful touring throughout Israel can be a great experience for ‘basketball serious’ Jewish American youth and another great option to really ‘connect’ teens to our Homeland. I look forward to helping make this opportunity available beginning next summer. Basketball serious teens- start planning for next summer in Israel!

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