Israeli point guard Haggai Hundert is rapidly becoming a cult figure at leading British Basketball League club Airwaves Plymouth Raiders.
Hailing from Ramat Gan, Haggai, who holds British and Israeli passports, went to Oklahoma City University before signing his first professional contract for Chemosvit in Slovakia.
Standing at 6ft 2”, Hundert hopes to continue the pattern of top Jewish stars in the country and follow in the footsteps of Tamir Berkovitch, formerly of London Towers and Newcastle Eagles, and Steve Panovka.
Since joining the Raiders in February Hundert is keen to help the team maintain their status as one of the top four sides in the league.
“I was excited when the Raiders coach called me,” said Hundert, “I was staying with my sister in Golders Green when the call came and I jumped at the chance of getting on a train to Plymouth.
“I looked on the internet and saw that Plymouth has the oldest operational Ashkenazi synagogue in the English speaking world. I thought that if it had an operational shul then I will be able to find a community and feel at home.”
Hundert was singled out for praise by coach Gary Stronach following last week’s 96-73 loss at Sheffield Sharks. Stronach said: “I thought one bright part of the Sheffield game was the performance of Haggai Hundert.”
Renowned for his long-range shooting and penetrating passing game, Hundert is not the only Jewish connection at Raiders as Damon Lenszner has been the vice-chairman for 15 months.
Previously a director at Plymouth Argyle Football Club, Lenszner was introduced to the sport by his stepson, Tom, six years ago. Delighted to have Hundert on board, he said: “We were lucky because Haggai has a British as well as an Israeli passport as the League has a ruling that clubs can only employ three non-EU players, and most of them come from the USA.
“Haggai has proved, however, that Israeli players can adapt quickly into the British game and have much to offer. We would certainly be open to looking at more Israelis in future seasons.”
After resigning from the board of directors at Argyle, Lenszner is now involved with sponsoring the Raiders and aims to help increase the professionalism of the club off the court.
Hundert said: “It was so unexpected to find a Jewish connection at the Raiders. Damon quickly introduced me to other members of the community and Keith White of Michael Spiers Jewellers offered to become my sponsor.
“Within 10 days of arriving in Plymouth, Keith, Damon and I were sitting together at a Friday night service at the shul.”