Maccabi Haifa is a professional Israeli basketball club that pairs diversity with the drive to learn and work hard. The club has players from many different backgrounds. One player, Demontez Stitt, played in the Atlantic Coast Conference at Clemson University in South Carolina. Many players who aren’t qualified to play in the NBA or want to play on an international level join teams like Maccabi Haifa. “When I first got out of college, it was a lockout [in the NBA], so there were a lot of guys that went to Israel to play,” Stitt said.
Stitt himself looked at many different international teams before choosing Maccabi Haifa. “When I first came to Israel three years ago, I didn’t know what to expect, but Israel is a lot different than what you hear and see on TV in the States,” Stitt said. He has had a great time playing for Israel and has enjoyed it the most out of all the places he has played internationally.
It can be hard to not see his family for ten months, but Stitt finds that Israel is the best home away from home. “Israel is a really good country,” Stitt said. “When I was in Belgium last year it was a lot different because there wasn’t much to do in the city I was in and it was harder to communicate with people, especially outside of the arena. Israel is definitely fun; it has great weather, great food and everyone speaks English.”
By Hayley Krolik
According to team manager and former Maccabi Haifa player Ido Kozikaro, Maccabi Haifa plays in the first division of the Israeli Premier League. If they place in the top three, they have the opportunity to participate in the European Cup. After losing in the quarter finals last year, they have decided to concentrate on the Israeli Primary League this season. “We have a young team so we want to focus on building up on their abilities and playing better in games,” Kozikaro said.
Kozikaro finds that sports teach players about community. “Haifa is always a good example of Arab people, Jewish people and also some Christians that all live peacefully,” Kozikaro said. “Sports make people from different backgrounds support one goal. Sports are one of the things that really united the country.” Also, he believes professional sports have given him a great work ethic. “If you want to be a professional basketball player, you have to be very realistic and know what your weakness is as a player and make it better,” Kozikaro said. “An American-Jewish guy who made Aliyah (relocated) to Israel said to me that the three ways to succeed in professional basketball are work, work and work.”
Maccabi Haifa demonstrated their commitment to hard work with a recent visit to the United States to prepare for this season. They embarked on a 12 day trip with four exhibition games against National Basketball Association (NBA) teams. “The purpose of this trip is to pull the team together,” Kozikaro said. “We are in the beginning of the season, and we have a good chance to play against NBA competition. All the experience that we are having as a team makes us a better unit and a better team.”