Israeli NBA Prospect Starts IDF Service Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Maccabi Tel Aviv forward and potential NBA draft pick Deni Avdija began his obligatory service in the IDF on April 1 as the Israel Basketball Premiere League season remained indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Post reported.
The 19-year-old, who is the son of former Serbian-Israeli basketball player and coach Zufer Avdija, arrived with his parents and agent at the Tel HaShomer army base to enlist, and will likely ultimately complete his service in North America as an “Exceptional Athlete.”
“I am happy and proud to join the IDF just like every other citizen of my age,” said Avdija. “I will do whatever is asked of me just like I do on the basketball court.”
Avdija, the No. 5 prospect in the ESPN Top 100, was named MVP of the FIBA U20 European Championship after leading Israel to a gold medal over the summer. He was also named MVP of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders events in Tel Aviv and Charlotte, North Carolina, last year.
The 6-foot-9 hoopster announced on Thursday that he had officially submitted paperwork to make himself eligible for the 2020 NBA Draft. He is the sixth Israeli to ever enter the draft.
The New York Post reported, “It’s almost certain the sharpshooter will become Israel’s first NBA lottery pick. Most insiders have him being selected somewhere between the fourth and eighth picks.”
At the moment, the NBA draft is still scheduled for June 25, but teams have asked the league to push it back until at least August, according to NBC Sports. With the NBA season currently suspended, sources around the league said they expected the draft to take place in the fall.