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Tossing Up Hoops in the Holy Land

September 14, 2006 By:
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Scott Greenman sets up the Princeton offense.
Princeton University graduate Scott Greenman loves everything about the game of basketball, not just the high-flying highlights seen on ESPN, but all of the little, unglamorous aspects of the sport that have increasingly become a lost art.

He has a deep appreciation for the mental chess match between coaches, the importance of moving effectively without the ball, and even relishes the feeling of a fire burning in your legs while you ferociously try to prevent your opponent from scoring.

The 22-year-old played for four years for the Princeton Tigers, a team well-known for solid fundamentals, tough defense, a fluid passing game and pure shooting. During the guard's sophomore year, the Tigers made it to the "big dance" -- the coveted NCAA tournament. His underdog team led the powerhouse Texas Longhorns at halftime before ultimately falling by double digits.

The Linwood, N.J., native -- who hit 139 three-pointers in his career and averaged 10.8 points per game in his senior year -- did not want his 2004 appearance during March Madness to be the highlight of his competitive basketball career.

"I just want to keep playing for as long as I can," said Greenman. "I have the rest of my life to get some kind of real job."

But Greenman, who stands at 5 feet 9 inches, knew that he didn't stand a chance of playing in the National Basketball Association, and so he didn't even bother making himself eligible for the NBA draft.

Instead, he hired an agent to look for playing opportunities overseas; as it turned out, an Israeli pro-team came calling. Earlier this summer, he agreed to play for B'nai Hasharon, a premier league team based in Herzliya, Israel.

Greenman has been to Israel only once -- for a basketball tournament, of course -- and doesn't speak a word of Hebrew, although he plans to enroll in an ulpan.

Of course, the outbreak of war on July 12 created some additional jitters.

"My parents -- they weren't too thrilled about the whole situation over there. They were more along the lines of me not going," he said. "I was banking on something good happening by the time I got over there."

He added that the Aug. 14 cease-fire seemed to be as close to good news as was possible under the circumstances. So on Sept. 4, he not only left for Israel, he began the process of becoming an Israeli citizen.

Finding a Way to Play
But the young man who became a Bar Mitzvah at Temple Emeth Shalom Reform Congregation in Margate, N.J., admitted that this was not being done out of Zionist fervor. Rules limit the number of foreign players that can be on the court at one time; obviously, if he were counted as an Israeli, he wouldn't be subject to such regulations.

While making aliyah might not have been his lifelong dream -- and he may very well return stateside when his ball-playing days are over -- Greenman said that he wouldn't be surprised if he develops a powerful personal connection to Israel.

"I'm guessing something like that will happen," he said. "I'm not extremely religious. My grandparents came over during the Holocaust, and I have a bunch of relatives who are survivors," he said, adding that his late grandfather had lived through Auschwitz.

Greenman is fully aware that his basketball career won't last forever. In fact, he said he'd be lucky if it lasts more than a few years.

So what does this sociology major hope to do when that day comes? "Eventually, I want to be a coach," he replied, somewhat predictably, before adding a little twist. "I was also thinking about law school." 

 

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