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Oded Katash knows a thing or two about what it takes to make it to the NBA. In 1998, the Israeli guard was set to become the first Israeli in the NBA after coming to terms with the New York Knicks.
However, shortly after the terms of the deal were agreed upon, the NBA entered a lockout. When it appeared that the season might be lost altogether, Katash decided to return to his boyhood club, Israeli champs Maccabi Tel Aviv. Although the NBA season was eventually saved, despite cutting 32 games and the All-Star Game from the schedule, it would be too late for Katash, who never got a second shot at the best basketball league in the world.
Today, Katash coaches the Hapoel Galil Elyon-Golan squad that is home to NBA prospect Lior Eliyahu.
On Sunday, soon after Eliyahu announced that he would remain in the June 28 NBA Draft and continue his quest to be the first Israeli to play in the NBA, Katash talked to The Jerusalem Post about his star player and the improvement he's shown.
Eliyahu, a 20-year-old, 2.04-meter forward, "has improved a lot over the last two years, and is the perfect guy if an NBA team is looking for a prospect," Katash said.
Often teams will select young international players in the draft, who have a great upside and potential to grow, but are a few years away from being ready to play in the NBA. These "prospect" players, as Katash called them, are most often placed on teams in their home countries to grow stronger and develop further before ultimately attempting the jump to the NBA.
One advantage for NBA teams in keeping a player overseas is that it gives the player a chance to play basketball non-stop, whereas scores of American players who are drafted before their time wallow away on the end of a team's bench or in the NBA's Development League, until eventually being cut.
Many experts feel that Eliyahu is a skilled, solid performer with what it takes to make it in the NBA.
Katash says he "just needs to work on his perimeter game and size."
Assuming Eliyahu is gearing up for an NBA career, he may be able to accomplish what he needs to do to become NBA-ready if he ends up playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the near future, as many people - including Katash - predict will happen.
The consensus as Draft Day looms is that Eliyahu will one day play in the NBA. The question that remains is how many years he will play in Israel before that happens.
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