Maccabi Haifa has signed U.S. guard Tamir Goodman for the upcoming season, the team announced yesterday. Goodman was the first player signed in a two-day tryout held yesterday at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

Goodman, an observant Orthodox Jew who grew up with eight siblings in Baltimore, Maryland, was dubbed the "Jewish Jordan" by Sports Illustrated magazine while he was still in high school. The tag has stuck with him ever since, earning him the nickname "JJ".

The 6-foot, 3-inch Goodman first gained national attention at the Talmudical Academy of Baltimore, where he was named among the nation's 25 best high school basketball players, averaging 35 points his junior year and 25 his senior year.

Goodman turned down a full scholarship at the University of Maryland due to scheduling conflicts, and instead played two seasons at Towson University, a public university in the Baltimore area. At Towson he struggled to live up to expectations, averaging six points a game and eventually falling out with the team's coach, who Goodman later criticized as anti-Semitic.

In 2002 he fulfilled what he described as a personal dream by immigrating to Israel, signing a three-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv. He was loaned for the 2002-2003 season to Givat Shmuel to get more playing time, but his performance continued to fall below expectations, eventually landing him at second-tier Kiryat Ata.

Goodman then served in the Israel Defense Forces, where he suffered a knee injury that required surgery.

After the operation he returned to Givat Shmuel, but averaged just under seven minutes of playing time a game. He returned to Israel's second-tier league, then back to Maryland to play in the Premier Basketball League.

Off the court, Goodman is heavily involved in charity work in both the United States and Israel.

He runs a basketball camp called the Tamir Goodman Athletic Leadership Basketball Camp, which bring together Jewish and African-American youth from around the country to strengthen the relationship between the two communities while developing the players' talents.

He also founded Tamir Goodman Charities, which aids children affected by Qassam rockets that have been launched at Sderot.

"I look forward to helping the Haifa Heat as much as possible, both on and off the court. I share the same dream and vision as Mr. Rosen, and I hope to spread that throughout America and Israel as much as possible," Goodman said yesterday, referring to the team by its alternative name, and to its owner, U.S. investor Jeffrey Rosen.

Rosen, for his part, sounded an optimistic note as well.

"We are delighted to have Tamir join the team," he said. "We expect that Tamir's signing will bridge the relationship between the Israeli and American Jewish community as well as the Israeli and American basketball community."

Maccabi's coach echoed the owner's sentiments.

"We are excited to give Tamir another opportunity to play in Israel," said coach Avi Ashkenazi. "His signing is another piece of the puzzle."