Growing Up ... Omri Casspi

Few Cavaliers play with more passion than Omri Casspi – and this is a team that includes Anderson Varejao.

Cleveland’s starting 3 came over from California’s capital in the offseason and is beginning to get acclimated with his new squad. In four of the Cavs last five contests, he’s notched double-digits.

In today’s installment of Growing Up, we take a look back at the first Israeli player ever drafted in the first round – from his athletic family to his early days with A.P. to his first dunk as a youngster ...

Previously, Growing Up ... Anderson Varejao | Anthony Parker | Ryan Hollins | Samardo Samuels | Christian Eyenga | Alonzo Gee | Ramon Sessions

I started playing basketball … when I was seven years old. Second grade. You get with a little team, you play, and you start loving the game.

I come from an … athletic family. My mom played basketball. My older brother and younger sister did. My mom was on the National team in basketball. And she played.

My father … played tennis.

I played tennis …a little bit when I was younger. I started a few different things. My parents didn’t want to push me into basketball. So they gave me a couple different things to play.

I played … soccer, tennis – a couple different other sports. But I loved basketball. So I stuck
with it.

I was pretty good, but … my older brother was much better than me. He was really talented in tennis. I still play in the offseason.

Growing up, my siblings and I … were competing; we were pushing each other to succeed.

I remember going with my brother …to the neighborhood courts. He always pushed me to go against the other older kids on the court, even though he was four years older than me. I was playing against older guys that were stronger than me, just to get better.

So he was really tough on me … and he still is. He’s here with me in Cleveland and he pushes me every day, every game. We push each other.

You turn professional … when you turn 18 in Europe.

I turned pro … when I was 17, when I was still in high school, playing with A.P.

There were a few … Israeli coaches that influenced me. There is one in particular that I still work with in summers in Israel. His name is Ziv Erez. He was a mentor for me. But for the most part, I’ve learned from each coach.

My basketball idol growing up … was Michael Jordan.

As far as Maccabi … it was Anthony, probably. I remember I was 13 when A.P. came over to play in Israel for five or six years. So at that age, you start to realize what basketball really is, growing up, watching Maccabi every two or three days. And Anthony was definitely the main guy.

It was my dream … to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv. I never knew if I would make it and I would be successful or not. But it was a dream to play.

It was my dream … because nobody ever really made it to the NBA. Nobody ever opened that door. Not a lot of Israelis make it to Maccabi and not a lot of them succeeded in Maccabi.

I was always taller for my age … but I had my growth spurt when I think was 13 or 14 years old. I was six foot and I think I made that jump to 6-5, 6-6.

I definitely remember … my first dunk.

It was in ... a warm-up. I was 14 years old.

Emotionally, inside … I was going crazy. I tried it in the warm-ups and I thought: ’If I get a breakaway, I’m going to do this – even if I miss and coach gets really mad.’