President Rivlin hails 'a night of Israeli pride'

Yam Madar selected by Boston Celtics, is 2nd Israeli picked in 2020 NBA draft

After Deni Avdija’s Top 10 pick, Hapoel Tel Aviv point guard, 19, is 47th overall, but doesn’t get guaranteed contract; club says he’ll likely play at least another year outside US

Yam Madar plays in a game against Argentina in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, on April 2, 2018. (CC BY-SA Sven Mandel/Wikipedia)
Yam Madar plays in a game against Argentina in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, on April 2, 2018. (CC BY-SA Sven Mandel/Wikipedia)

Israeli point guard Yam Madar, 19, was selected Wednesday night by the Boston Celtics in the second round of the NBA draft, completing an unprecedented showing for Israeli basketball after Deni Avdija became the country’s first-ever top 10 pick.

It is just the second time that two Israelis were picked in the same draft, after Lior Eliyahu and Yotam Halperin were selected in 2006 in the 44th and 56th places, respectively. Neither ended up playing in the league.

After Avdija was picked 9th by the Washington Wizards, Madar became the 47th overall pick, better than expected after projections put him in the 55-60th place.

“When you start playing basketball you dream about such moments,” Madar commented. “Reaching somewhere like Boston is indescribable. I want to say thank you to my family and everyone who helped me reach this moment.”

However, having made two draft picks before Madar — taking Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard — the Celtics clarified that Madar would not be playing in the NBA just yet.

“The plan will probably be to keep him overseas for at least another year and watch him over there,” said the club’s president of basketball operations, Danny Ainge.

The young point guard, originally from the central Israel town of Beit Dagan, currently plays for Hapoel Tel Aviv and has a contract for two more seasons. He doesn’t have an NBA release clause, and Hapoel is expected to demand hundreds of thousands of dollars for him if the Celtics want him during that time.

Madar played for Maccabi Beit Dagan, a small team, until he moved to Hapoel Tel Aviv at age 15. He has since become a leading player and last year was part of Israel’s under-20 team that won the European Championships, together with Avdija.

In the summer, the 6-foot-3 Madar traveled to Las Vegas to display his abilities to NBA professionals.

The Celtics are tied with the Los Angeles Lakers as the most successful team in NBA history, with 17 championships.

Unlike Madar, Avdija has a guaranteed NBA contract and will be the third Israeli to play in the league, following in the footsteps of Omri Casspi and Gal Mekel.

In Avdija the Wizards will get a versatile, playmaking forward with a still-developing game who could be a part of the team’s effort to turn things around after missing the playoffs the past two seasons.

Avdija, who helped Israel win the FIBA U-20 European Championships in 2018 and 2019, is a good ballhandler and passer but does come with questions about his shooting touch.

He became the youngest player to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv when he began his professional career in 2017.

President Reuven Rivlin congratulated both Avdija and Madar on Twitter, saying it was “a night of Israeli pride.”

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