Tuesday, May 29, 2007

First Israeli Pro Basketball Player in the WNBA

Here's a sweet profile of the first Israeli woman to play in the WOmen's National Basketball Association in the U.S. I confess my favorite part of the story is the correction--her name is Shay, not Shea. "Shea Stadium" is a baseball stadium in Manhattan, so it's an easy error to make.

May 20, 2007
Heart in Israel and Home (Court) in New York

Shay Doron waited for her life's dream to unfold last month at the W.N.B.A. draft.

The dream had begun to take shape during her childhood in Israel, where her athletic parents marveled at how hard she practiced. Later, to help make the dream possible, her parents moved the family to Long Island for Doron's last two years of high school.

As Doron sat and hoped, Reneé Brown, the W.N.B.A. vice president for player personnel, held a Liberty jersey before announcing the team's second-round pick. ''She stared right at me,'' Doron said. ''So I knew.''

Doron had not only been granted her dream, but also the joy of being only a Long Island Rail Road trip from her parents, Yuda and Tamari. They uprooted and moved their two daughters to the United States in 2001, leaving their intifada-torn country only two weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks.


When the Liberty opens its season Sunday at Madison Square Garden against Chicago, Doron, a 5-foot-9 guard, will become the first Israeli to play in the W.N.B.A. The Liberty took her with the 16th pick over all.

''All the hard work, all the things I've sacrificed, have been to get here,'' said Doron, who as a junior in 2005-6 led Maryland to the N.C.A.A. title. ''To be the first is great and a lot goes with that, but that wasn't my main concern. My main concern is being the best I can be and getting to the best level there is, and that's the W.N.B.A.''

None of it was easy for the Dorons, who left behind a close-knit and extended family during a period of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Yuda and Tamari had served in the Israeli military -- Yuda in the navy's special forces -- and the family had moved often, meaning Shay kept having to adjust to new schools and to finding new friends.

Yuda, who had been a decathlete, and Tamari, who had played for the national volleyball team, say they never nudged Shay toward sports. She fell in love with basketball, using it to help her fit in after every move, practicing on her own when she could not find anyone to play with.

When Doron settled into high school in Ramat Hasharon, a suburb of Tel Aviv, her childhood love evolved into the goal of playing professionally in the United States. The Dorons decided that the only way that could happen was if they moved there.

A coach they knew recommended Christ the King in Queens, the alma mater of the W.N.B.A. players Chamique Holdsclaw and Sue Bird. Doron became the only Jewish player at a Catholic high school, all in the name of her dream.

''It was the hardest decision I've ever made in my life,'' Doron said. ''I love Israel. My whole family is there. I remember crying on my dad and he said: 'Shay, I know this is hard, but this is the right thing. Trust me. When you look back on this in a few years, you will know this was the right move.' ''


In the United States, Doron serves as a walking tourism video for her native country. She describes Israel to everyone she meets. When she played for the United States team in the Maccabiah Games in 2005 (the Israelis entered a younger team, so Doron could not join it), she played tour guide and took her American teammates to the family's house for dinner.

''I want Americans to know Israel, how beautiful it is,'' Doron said. ''You have to get there and see that it isn't as scary as you see on the news.''

Correction: May 29, 2007, Tuesday Because of an editing error, a sports article on May 20 about a player from Israel who was selected by the Liberty in the W.N.B.A. draft in April misspelled her given name in some copies. As the article noted elsewhere, she is Shay Doron, not Shea.

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