Israeli-Serbian basketball player Deni Avdija was selected by the Washington Wizards 9th overall in the NBA draft on Wednesday night, making him the first Israeli to be drafted in the top ten in NBA history.
"Israel is a small country and I am proud to represent it, it's something amazing. I'm excited and looking forward to taking my game to the next level and seeing what happens,” said Avdija after the draft.
He added, "I love my family, friends and fans. I will make you proud."
Avdija, 19, has played for Maccabi Tel Aviv of the Israeli Basketball Premier League and the EuroLeague.
Avdija, the son of basketball player Zufer Avdija, joined Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2013 and excelled as a youth player. He debuted for their senior team in 2017, at age 16, becoming the youngest in club history. Two years later, he became the youngest player to ever win the Israeli League Most Valuable Player (MVP) award and led his team to the Israeli League championship.
He was also a member of the Israeli senior national team. He has won two gold medals for Israel at the youth level, including at the 2019 FIBA U20 European Championship.
He becomes the third Israeli to play in the NBA after Omri Casspi, who was selected with the 23rd overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2009 NBA draft, and Gal Mekel, who was not drafted but signed with the Dallas Mavericks in the summer of 2013.
Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, congratulated Avdija.
"Deni, congratulations! You make Israel real proud. The entire Erdan family has been following the draft with excitement and from today you are also our ambassador and we are all fans of Washington. We will come to cheer from the stands (after the coronavirus)," tweeted Erdan.