Two Israeli players drafted to NBA

Lior Eliyahu, picked 44th, initially drafted to Magic and traded minutes later to Rockets; Yotam Halperin goes to Seattle Supersonics, picked 53rd.

halperin 88 (photo credit: )
halperin 88
(photo credit: )
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 television from 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 tonight's draft, most analysts projected Yotam Halperin to be the first Israeli player drafted since the Los Angeles Clippers picked Doron Sheffer with the 36th selection of the 1996 Draft. Halperin surprisingly dropped to the Seattle Supersonics with the 53rd pick. 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 that 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." Having spent the past three seasons with Hapoel Galil Golan, the 2.06-meter, 102.1 kg, 20-year-old forward will have at least one more season to further develop his talents. Eliyahu has one year of army service remaining and will be finished next summer, according to Heumann. "If he continues to improve and add strength, I expect him to be on the roster in '07-'08," Heumann said.