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Photo by: Eric Evans/University of Oregon website
Ben Carter on way to becoming next Israeli household-name hoopster
By SETH FINKELSTEIN
03/12/2013
Israel-born sophomore power-forward for the University of Oregon talks to 'Post' about dreams of following Casspi and Mekel to NBA.
 
Israeli-born basketball player Ben Carter has had a love of hoops coursing through his veins almost since he was born.

Ben’s father, Mike, played his professional basketball in Israel, enjoying an illustrious career for Hapoel Holon before having his jersey number was retired by the team.

Carter is a now sophomore power-forward for the University of Oregon, although he is currently suspended from the team for selling apparel.

Carter was born in Tel Aviv, but was just six months old when his Mike and Ben’s mother, Hadar, moved the family to Las Vegas, Nevada.

He grew up playing all kinds of sports and says he was “probably too young to even remember” when he first started dribbling a basketball. As Carter got older he started playing competitively and his coach was who else but his father, Mike.

“He coached our school team when I was in second grade, and I played up, I played with the older kids,” Carter reflected to The Jerusalem Post of those early days.

“I was a point guard at the time so I was the smallest kid. But just playing with my brother and my dad coaching me... just learning the game at such a young age and learning all the basic fundamentals that I still use to this day, that was so valuable.”

A crucial moment in Carter’s development as a player came when he played overseas in his early teenage years.

“When I was 15, I played in China. My dad took a team over there and I was pushing to play on the team with a bunch of different players and I was the youngest player at the time. I was 15 while everyone else had reached 19. It definitely taught me how to play tough, how to play physical.

“It’s a different style of basketball overseas, players are a lot tougher, the refs let a lot more go than they do here in the states and you definitely have to play smarter and play more physical.”

Carter enrolled at powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, where he played alongside high-school phenom and current NBA rookie Shabazz Muhammad.

“It was cool to see [Muhammad] grow as a player, grow as a person,” said Carter. “I played with him, I’ve known him since I was really young. We became a lot closer over the last two years of high school. He was definitely an intense player definitely, an intense teammate, but he helps brings out the best in players. He demands a high level of play from his teammates and he’s a great competitor.”

While Carter was playing for Bishop Gorman, his team was so dominant that it won three state championships.

Coming out of high school, Carter was a 6-foot-8 (2.03 meters), 220-pound (100 kg) power-forward and was ranked as the 130th high school player in the country by Rivals150, a top prospect recruiting website.

During his junior season at Bishop Gorman, Carter averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. As a senior, he averaged 10 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and earned third team All-State honors.

Carter was heavily recruited by big-time college programs such as USC, Oregon, UNLV, Boston College and several others.

Ultimately, he signed on to attend school and play basketball at the University of Oregon over his hometown team of UNLV.

“At the time, I wanted to be away from home. I had lived in Las Vegas my whole life and, aside from being born in Israel, was raised in Las Vegas. I wanted to see more of the country,” Carter explained.

“But also I think Oregon was a good fit for me. The style of play fit my game very much. It’s really just a great university and has great academics and just a great support system here.”

Last season at Oregon, Ben played in every single game as a freshman. His team made it to the NCAA tournament, which Carter thinks may have been the best moment of his hoops career.

“It was really a dream come true,” he gushed. “When I was a kid I always dreamed of cutting the nets down and playing in March Madness and being a part of it. It didn’t seem like it was real at first, it really was surreal, but it was a great experience.”

Oregon went to the Sweet 16 but lost to eventual national champion Louisville.

“I was able to taste success a little bit and reach the Sweet 16, but it also made me hungry for more and wanted me to get farther in the next coming years,” Carter added.

This season Oregon is ranked No. 14 in the United States.

However, before the season even started, Carter and teammate Dominic Artis were suspended by the university for illegally selling team apparel. They both remain suspended for the first nine games of the season.

Carter declined to comment on the incident and resulting suspension, but overall maintained that he is very happy with his choice to go to Oregon.

“We have such a great support system here with our coaching staff, and all of our athletic strength coaches and our trainers, they really put us in a great position to be successful and that’s important at a college level.”

After his suspension is over, Carter will rejoin the team and figures to play a crucial role for an Oregon squad that has lofty goals.

“I think the sky is the limit for this team,” said Carter. “We have a lot of talent, we definitely need to put some things together; we definitely need to get better at a lot of aspects.

But I think this team could be very successful.”

When asked if what it means to him that he’s Israeli he noted that “it means a lot. I take pride in my Israeli citizenship, my Israeli heritage even though I haven’t lived there my whole life. I was born there. I still have roots there. I still take pride in my culture.

Just to be able to represent my country whenever I can, every time I step out on the court, it’s really an honor.”

Only two Israelis have ever played in the NBA – Omri Casspi and Gal Mekel – and Carter would love to be the third.

“I definitely hope to play in the NBA one day. It’s definitely been a dream of mine ever since I was a kid.”

But if he doesn’t make it to the NBA, he would be open to returning to Israel to play.

“Yeah it’s definitely a possibility,” Carter asserted. “I want to continue to play this game as long as I can. If Israel is in my future I definitely can see myself playing back home in front of my family and kind of relive and follow in the footsteps of my father.”
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