Wizards just-drafted forward, Israeli Deni Avdija, arrived in Washington over Thanksgiving and at a press conference Wednesday declared the nation’s capital “a beautiful city,” adding that playing tourist is secondary to him.
“I’m here to play basketball. So I’m excited,” said the 19-year-old, 6-9 forward, who was taken by the Wizards with the ninth overall pick of the NBA Draft two weeks ago.
Now the Israeli is in search of street food from home. “Hopefully I’ll have good guides to show me good hummus places,” he said.
Avdija’s father is a Muslim born in Serbia. His mother is a Jew born in Israel. Avdija called his dual heritage “my two sides. Half of my family is in Serbia and half of my family is in Israel,” he said.
He said he expects to get lots of support from Israelis and Jews here and in Israel.
“You have a lot of Israelis everywhere in the United States. So I’m going to have support from Israel and also here in the States,” he said, adding, “Jewish. Israeli. We’re all one big family.
As the press conference wound down, a reporter from the Israeli TV sports channel asked, in Hebrew: “How does it feel knowing that there is an entire country [Israel] which will be staying up at night, losing sleep, watching you play against Kevin Durant?” the Washington-born player for the Brooklyn Nets.
“I hope you will catch up on your sleep,” Avdija said. “Otherwise, it’s insane. I didn’t think it was going to happen, and here it is about to happen, and I am preparing as best as I can, and I believe in myself, and I know that you are all standing behind me and you are always in my heart. So, thank you.”