Basketball (W ) / Profile / She can't get no satisfaction
Even after overcoming injuries and personal hardship, highly regarded Noa Ganor is still fighting - mainly with her self-image.
Noa Ganor, who started in Israel's 73-58 Euro qualifier win over Ukraine last night, has come a long way since her debut on the national women's basketball team last summer.
Then, she was the 12th player on coach Eli Rabi's bench.
Her prominence on the team has emerged in tandem with her blooming career. While coaches in Israeli basketball deemed Ganor to be a second-rate player until two or three years ago, this year she is in high demand. One senior coach said this week that Ganor's next destination will affect how teams recruit other Israeli players. Apparently, Ganor, the 26-year-old, 1.69 meter guard, flew under the radar screen for a few seasons.
"I went through all the national youth teams, but after the cadets there was a talented generation of players older than me who were called up to the national squad," Ganor told Haaretz ahead of Saturday's game. "It took a number of years before I was called up for the first time, and I suffered both from injuries and a stroke of bad luck."
Ganor says it seems she waited longer than other players her age for her shot, but she has no problem with that. "Everything comes in time, and everyone has to go through a process," she reasons. She says she kept her sights on the summer this past season, knowing that the national team was due for an overhaul and that her time would come.
Born in Jerusalem, Ganor has dedicated her life to basketball while overcoming personal hardships. When she was eight, her sister Neta - a high-school sprinter and long jumper who was seven years her senior - was suddenly paralyzed by a rare virus which attacked her spinal cord. The two are very close, and Neta comes to watch Noa from her wheelchair on the sidelines.
Ganor says the odds of her sister's virus striking were 1.5 million to one and recalls that within three-quarters of an hour she went from being fully functional to being paralyzed in almost her entire body. Her sister can only move her head and shoulders now. "Her fighting spirit inspires me," she stresses. "She proves over and over that as long as your head isn't damaged, you can do anything."
The younger Ganor has also suffered from a rare condition, cluster headaches, since age 15. It is a type of migraine that attacks one side of the face, located in or above the eye. Ganor says that four years ago she practiced with the national team but the migraines forced her to quit. "It happens once every two years, like clockwork," she says, adding that acupuncture has kept it away for the past few years.
Ganor has played in the senior league since she was 19. After playing secondary roles for Ashdod and Bnot Hasharon, Ganor first averaged double figures with Ramat Hen in 2010, but she tore a knee ligament just before the playoffs.
She says that, oddly enough, the injury made her change for the better. Missing out on the national team, she not only rehabilitated her knee but developed her entire body. It also made her reassess her situation, she notes, getting out of the bubble and getting a better sense of proportion and motivation. Ganor adds she also found a physiotherapist who has become like family and with whom she continues to work.
While Ganor had a breakout year with Elitzur Netanya this season in many respects, she says she is not satisfied with her performance, an attitude which has been the motif of her career. "Everyone said I had a great season, but from my angle it was 30-40 percent of what I could have done," she says. "Others say I'm good, that I am taking the stage, and that they want me, but I know inside what I'm worth and regretfully I have not brought it to the court yet consistently. Why it has not happened is a question I ask myself a lot. Maybe I demand too much of myself."
Wanted by almost everybody
On paper, Ganor certainly has it all. She guards terrifically, is very quick and athletic. She penetrates to the basket well and is a much improved shooter. Yet, she is not always a playmaker. Ganor says she is not afraid to shoot but does not recall taking the last shot of a game.
Ganor spent the 2010-11 season recovering with Ramat Hasharon. However, her involvement in the Israeli player's strike - including a letter from her father to Sports Minister Limor Livnat - led to a conflict with the management. Six weeks into the season, she found herself in Netanya.
Save for Ramat Hasharon, every other women's Premier League team has made an offer for Ganor, who says she is having a tough time choosing. "This situation is not a given, and is very flattering," she says. Ganor says the coach is the most important consideration, though she admires equally Ashdod's Edney Dagan, Ramat Hen's Shiki Falah and Ramle's Adan Inbar. She adds she is interested in knowing how many minutes she can expect to play, even if no promises can be made. Other factors for her include potential teammates and the possibility of playing in Europe.
Before all that happens, however, she has to get through Israel's European campaign. Coach Rabi says he is trying to take the pressure off her. He says he wants her to concentrate more on helping the team than on herself. The moment she's focused on helping others, the better her ability will emerge, surmises Rabi, who knows Ganor from coaching her on the youth national teams. Although she only scored four points and four rebounds, she did provide support for team leaders Shay Doron, who finished with 28 points, as Israel got the job done.
Ganor said before the Ukraine game that she hoped she would take advantage of being a lesser known player in Europe, although she remains her own biggest critic. "It seems I'll never satisfy myself," she added. (Steve Klein contributed to this report. )