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November 19, 2020 4:24 pm

Israeli Basketball Player Omri Casspi Congratulates Top Ten NBA Draft Pick Deni Avdija

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Israeli basketball player Deni Avdija. Photo: Reuters / Karolis Kavolelis.

Former Israeli NBA player Omri Casspi congratulated his Maccabi Tel Aviv teammate Deni Avdija on being drafted by the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

Avdija, 19, was selected by the Wizards with the No. 9 overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, becoming the highest draft pick from Israel in NBA history.

Casspi shared on Instagram an old photo of him and Avdija in Maccabi Tel Aviv uniforms, and in the caption he wished the 6-foot-9 athlete good luck in the NBA.

“@Deniavdia8, you did it!” wrote Casspi in the Hebrew-language post. “Everyone around you knows how much hard work, will and boldness has gone into this process. It was a pleasure to play with you and now you’re moving on to the big league. Stay humble as you are – it is the basis of success in life, trust me. I’m always here for you, behind and in front of the scenes.”

Casspi completed his post by blessing Avdija with a priestly benediction, known in Hebrew as “birkat kohanim,” which Casspi’s late grandfather used to say to his grandchildren.

The two athletes are good friends and Avdija talked about his friendship with Casspi during a video conference ahead of the draft, telling reporters, “Me talking with [Casspi] every day, him teaching me and guiding me towards my dream coming true, it’s really special to have someone next to you with a lot of experience.… I’m really thankful for him.”

Former Maccabi Tel Aviv star Tal Brody praised Avdija in an interview with i24News on Wednesday, saying, “He does have a lot of experience coming in [to the NBA], I would say even more than the players graduating college. The pressure in the EuroLeague is not any least than playing college basketball in the states…I think Deni, with his physical ability and all around playing, I think he can do it…I think he’ll be a very good player and he’ll go the distance in the NBA.”

Wizards coach Scott Brooks said about Avdija following the draft announcement on Wednesday: “I love Deni’s competitive spirit and feel for the game and I’m excited to help him continue to improve when we begin camp in a few weeks. His toughness and overall skill set will allow us to use him in multiple lineups and allow him to seamlessly blend in with our team.”

Speaking to the media after being drafted, Avdija commented, “For me just to represent my country and to make history, that’s a blessing. I have the whole nation behind me.”

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