Ray Allen 298.
(photo credit: AP[file])
On Saturday night Doron Sheffer made yet another comeback. This time, it was after an injury-imposed layoff as opposed to two previous stints away from the game by choice.
Ever since the Israeli guard's first retirement sent shockwaves through the basketball world in July 2000, his every move has drawn headlines. His return to the game in January 2003, his move to Hapoel Jerusalem that summer, winning the ULEB Cup in 2004, a documentary film on how he beat testicular cancer, a fax he sent to Hapoel Tel Aviv management after preseason training began announcing his second retirement - all surprised the who's who of Israeli hoops.
Another set of eyes that has monitored the Iceman's career from afar was also taken aback by some of Sheffer's decisions.
While Sheffer began to carve his name into Israel's small but growing pantheon of basketball legends as a teenager with Hapoel Galil Elyon in the early '90s, he put Israel on America's expanding basketball map when he took his 1.96-meter frame to Storrs, Connecticut. There, he ran the show for the University of Connecticut, which, with Sheffer's help, added to its reputation as a basketball powerhouse. Sheffer's UConn teammate Ray Allen, now a perennial NBA All-Star with the Seattle Supersonics, fondly looks back on his days playing alongside Sheffer, who beat Allen for the Big East conference Rookie of the Year honors in '93-'94. The two UConn alumni reunited when Sheffer came to America in the fall. "It was always good seeing him,
because we had so many great moments together," Allen told The Jerusalem Post. "Whenever you're on a team where you win, you never forget those days." Allen's favorite memories of Sheffer were the times before practice when the two guards would stretch together. "We used to enjoy just those moments where - before practice, before anything - we would just sit there and stretch and talk," he said. "It's kind of a weird situation for two grown men pulling on each other's legs and all that stuff, but I guess it's at the moment when you're most vulnerable, so you can sit down and talk about anything." Allen admits that he had mixed feelings when he learned that he had lost out to Sheffer as the top freshman in the Big East.
"I was pissed," he said. "I was second place, but I was happy for him. He and I were both rookies, and it was between both of us. The fact that he won, I felt like I won. It was a great sign of things to come."
IN THEIR three seasons together, Sheffer and Allen helped lead UConn twice to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 and once to the Elite 8, where the Huskies lost to eventual national champion UCLA. The young men comprised one of the top backcourts in the country, which seemed to make life easier on Sheffer so many kilometers away from home.
"He was definitely quiet, but any time I went over to his dorm room, you could hear him down the hallway talking on the phone," Allen said. "Of course he was speaking in his language, so I thought he was in an argument with somebody, 'cause he always spoke so loud when he talked to people back home.
"And I walked into the room and asked him, 'Is everything's alright back home?' It used to always seem like they're arguing, but he said, 'It's just how we talk in my country.'"
Allen described Sheffer as being "on and off" when discussing the Israeli's various retirements and un-retirements, but he had trouble believing reports that Sheffer said in October if he could go back in time he wouldn't have played basketball, describing it as a waste of time and energy. "I think basketball's done so much for him in his lifetime, and he's found so many other passions," Allen said. "It's hard to say he wouldn't [have ever played], because of where he's traveled, just like I definitely would not say that, because the things I've accomplished in my life and people I've met and places I've gone. "You're just at a stage later on in your life when you realize that there's so many other things that you like. And that's OK because that's the progression of life: You find other things, you become somebody different from who you were 15, 20 years prior." But maybe with his recent decision to return to the court, one thing is for certain: The capricious Sheffer really hasn't changed. He just changes his mind.