Wizards continue to build with historic pick of Avdija

On Wednesday night, the Wizards drafted international basketball sensation Deni Avdija with the ninth pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Avdija, 19, became the highest drafted player ever taken from Israel and the sixth Israeli-born player ever drafted. He spent the past two seasons playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel’s top basketball club.

Similar to Rui Hachimura, Advija will have an entire country on his back. The Wizards will have fans from around the world, especially considering Israel is the only nation-state of the Jewish people.

Avdija’s father, Zufer, was a professional basketball player in Yugoslavia and Israel for almost two decades. He played internationally for Yugoslavia and won the bronze medal at the 1982 FIBA World Championship. Deni’s mother, Sharon, was an Israeli track and field and basketball athlete.

A lot of people may not know this, but when you turn 18 in Israel, you have to join the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Deni Avdija received a deferment from mandatory service initially, but then served in the IDF for a short service due to the pandemic.

Another fun fact about Avdija: he learned how to speak English from school, watching TV shows, and by playing Call of Duty. English is his third language after Hebrew and Serbian and he spoke English with his teammates at Maccabi Tel Aviv the past two seasons.

There’s no question the Wizards were excited to get Avdija, who the team has scouted from a young age.

“We’ve seen quite a bit of him. Our international scouts have been on this kid since he was 16,” Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said.

“We were very grateful he fell to nine…He’s a proven player, having played in EuroLeague. He’s got character, work ethic - he checked all of our boxes.”

The Wizards are getting a versatile wing in Avdija, who is projected to contribute right away. He’s a two-way player who can get to the rim with ease due to his size, and defend multiple positions. Avdija is known for his competitiveness, work ethic, and high basketball IQ.

“I love his toughness,” head coach Scott Brooks said. “I love his IQ. As a coach, you never have to worry about a player playing hard. That’s what [Avdija] does. He steps on the court and he competes. He’s going to make our practices better and our games better. … The thing that I like is most of his career you play against guys who are older than you. He’s played against men in the leagues that he’s played in.”

And for Avdija, it was a night he’ll never forget.

“For me to represent my country and make history, that’s a blessing,” Avdija said. “I never dreamed about this until this moment. It’s still a dream.”

"I’m super excited for Washington. It’s a great organization. I’m so blessed to get picked by them. I’m ready to work."

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