Eliyahu's agent had a pretty good night, too

By AARON KAPLOWITZ
June 30, 2006 09:44
3 minute read.

 
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After officially hearing that his client, Lior Eliyahu, was selected by the Orlando Magic with the 44th overall pick of the 2006 NBA Draft in New York City, agent Steven Heumann picked up his cell phone and called the young man, who was watching on TV in Israel. "Disneyland, huh?" Heumann said. Heumann walked away and spoke with Eliyahu privately, while a throng of Jewish teenage boys in the audience ran into the aisle, screaming, yelling and jumping behind a boy prominently flopping an Israeli flag. As it turned out, however, Disney would have to wait. Minutes after selecting him, Orlando traded the rights to Eliyahu to the Houston Rockets for cash considerations. "This is the beginning of Lior's dream to come to the NBA," Heumann told The Jerusalem Post. "Houston's a team that's had interest in him for two years, and we're both very excited. "Houston scouted him heavily and met with him personally in Treviso [Italy] a few weeks ago," he added. Entering Wednesday night's draft, most analysts projected Yotam Halperin to be the first Israeli player drafted since the LA Clippers picked Doron Sheffer with the 36th selection of the 1996 Draft. Halperin surprisingly dropped to the 53rd pick, where the Seattle Supersonics obtained his rights. Heumann wasn't sure why Halperin was not selected before Eliyahu, but had an idea why Eliyahu was taken higher than most expected. "Having talked to all the teams in the league about Lior, he's someone who is very highly regarded, someone who is considered to have a lot of potential," he said. "After all, the NBA is about potential." ESPN commentator Jay Bilas agreed. "He's a solid player," he said. "He's going to get better and better." After spending the past three seasons with Hapoel Galil-Golan, Eliyahu will have at least one more season to further develop his talents. He has three months of army service remaining and will be available to participate in training camp next summer, according to Heumann. "If he continues to improve and add strength, I expect him to be on the [Houston] roster in '07/08," Heumann said. Aside from adding strength, Eliyahu's critics feel that he has to improve his outside game if he wants to become a legitimate offensive threat. "He needs to work on his shooting mechanics," Heumann said. "But if you look at his shooting percentages from last year, they were over 60 percent. Were he in the NBA right now, he'd be first in the league in shooting percentage." Even before the draft, Heumann, who also represents Randy Foye (No. 7 to Boston) and Oleksiy Pecherov (No. 18 to Washington), knew that two teams were very interested in Eliyahu. Aside from Houston, the other team was the Washington Wizards, whose general manager is Ernie Grunfeld. They had the 48th pick. "When we made the decision to keep him in the draft, he was a little nervous," Heumann said, "and I assured him that I felt very comfortable that he would be drafted and which situations he would be drafted. And he put his trust in me, and now the ball is very much in his court." Although the race is on between Eliyahu and Halperin to become the first Israeli to ever play in the NBA, the league will most likely have its first Jewish player since Danny Schayes. The LA Lakers selected UCLA guard Jordan Farmar with the 26th pick overall. Heumann, however, seemed less concerned about his client being the first Israeli in the league and more concerned where Eliyahu will be in five years. "I hope that he's an NBA veteran at that point, someone who's a contributor to his team," he said. "I know he's someone who will be very well-liked, well-respected, and I expect him to be a big part of someone's team."

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