MELBOURNE basketball star Benji Tamir is plying his trade in Israel with third division club Hapoel Gezer-Na’an, which signed the young gun to a one-year deal after he impressed at the Maccabiah Games in July last year.
Although the 22-year-old faced his challenges in securing the deal, Tamir is now relishing the opportunity to develop his game in the Holy Land.
“Playing at the highest level I’ve ever played at, with a new team and a new language – it’s a big challenge,” Tamir told The AJN.
“But my teammates have been great, making me feel comfortable, which has made it easier to adjust.
“The passion they have for the game and for the team is incredible, and the fans have such pride in Na’an, bringing horns and drums and creating a thrilling atmosphere, which really inspires you to play harder and get better.”
Tamir has made a name for himself with the Maccabi Warriors, having won three Most Valuable Player awards, becoming one of the youngest in the club’s history to take out the top gong.
The successful Hapoel Gezer-Na’an, which boasts nine wins and two losses for the season, is a storied organisation, which is based at one of the oldest kibbutzim in the country, located 45 minutes south of Tel Aviv.
The club’s halcyon days included a stint in first division in the late 1970s and the story of its 10-point victory over league powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv in 1978 is the stuff of legend.
The star recruit was hired for his athleticism and versatility, rare qualities in a league comprised mainly of older players.
Tamir hasn’t disappointed, scoring 13 points in his most recent hit-out, and guiding his side to an 11-point victory over rivals Be’er Tuvia.
With plenty of opportunities for regular court time in a well-established competition, Tamir is looking forward to the year ahead.
“This season with Na’an is my chance to take it to the next level,” Tamir said.
“Getting paid to do what I love, living in a place like Israel, which I have such a special connection with, playing with a great team like Na’an – it’s a dream come true.”