As the first Israeli to play in the WNBA, Shay Doron is used to being touted as one of the country's most valued exports. Now playing for Turkish powerhouse Besiktas, she was recently named one of 14 candidates for FIBA Player of the Year.
"The truth is, nobody told me about that until a good friend of mine in the U.S. copy-pasted it from the Web site," the 23-year-old Ramat Hasharon native said by phone from Istanbul.
"I had just told him that I didn't play well in the last two games, and he said, 'I guess even when you're not at your best it's not so bad,'" she said.
"It's very flattering - I can't even describe it," she added.
Doron's resume leaves little to be desired. She led Tel Aviv's Rotenberg High School to three state championships, then moved to New York ahead of her junior year.
There she led Christ the King High School (where she was the only Jewish student) to its 19th straight Brooklyn-Queens title, and earned a coveted spot on the McDonald's All-American Team.
At the University of Maryland, she quickly secured herself the starting shooting guard position and helped the Terrapins overcome Duke to take the 2005-06 NCAA Championship. In April of last year she was selected by the WNBA's New York Liberty with the 16th pick.
That season she became the first Israeli to play in the top tier of American basketball (three Israeli men have been drafted into the NBA, but none ended up playing), but played in only seven games.
After returning to Israel to lead Elitzur Ramle to last year's State Cup and championship, and the EuroCup semifinals, Doron left Israel once again, this time for the parquets of the Euroleague.
At Besiktas she has continued to impress, with 14.5 points per game, 4.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.5 steals.
Still, Doron likes to emphasize that basketball is a team sport: "I'm very happy with my team. We have amazing girls."
Your style is more American than anything else, no?
"I don't think about that; it doesn't matter to me. I play basketball. But I think I'm a mix, I'm both. I've also changed mentally. I've been playing as center a lot, and I think less about scoring and leading an offensive attack."
Why do so few European players make it to the WNBA?
"Even in our group we have a few girls who could play in the WNBA, but it's not easy playing all year-round, and there aren't a lot of teams there."
Doron takes her position on Israel's national team seriously, and believes its opportunities for European success are good.
"We have a chance to surprise teams nobody thought we would. We can beat teams that see Israel, and think they can beat us. We're aiming high and not setting any limits."
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