(JNS.org) The National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Indiana Pacers Thursday became the second team in the league’s history to pick an Israeli-born player in the first round of the draft, selecting 6-foot-10 power forward T.J. Leaf.
Leaf averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in his only season for University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The Pacers drafted him with the 18th pick. In 2009, the Sacramento Kings used the 23rd pick on small forward Omri Casspi, who became the first Israeli-born player in NBA history. Israeli guard Gal Mekel, who played in the NBA from 2013-2014, was not drafted.
The latest Israeli-born NBA player is not Jewish. Leaf was born in Tel Aviv while his father was playing professional basketball in Israel. He went on to grow up in California’s San Diego County, where he played basketball at Foothills Christian High School before enrolling at UCLA.
Depending on the future destination for Casspi, who is a free agent this summer after playing for three NBA teams last season alone, Leaf may end up being the league’s only Israeli-born player for the 2017-2018 season.