Shay Doron, the only Israeli ever to play in the Women's National Basketball Association, on Tuesday signed a contract with Israeli powerhouse Elitzur Ramle, and will begin playing for the defending champion this October following the conclusion of her rookie WNBA season.
Israel has become a top draw for WNBA players in recent years. Last season, 17 NBA players spent their winter in Israel. WNBA salaries for the three-month summer season range from about $31,000 to $90,000, so even top players travel the world each winter in search of extra cash. In Israel, top American players can make as much as $120,000 a season.
"Israel is my home," Doron said Wednesday, in an interview with Israel's Army Radio. "I want to give back to the fans and family that were behind me through all the years I wasn't here. I hope it will help woman's basketball in Israel."
Doron, 22, left Israel for the U.S. seven years ago in pursuit of basketball glory.
She enrolled at Christ the King High School in New York City, a legendary basketball breeding ground, before being recruited to Maryland University, where she was a two-time All-American.
She graduated as the second-leading scorer in school history. In her junior year, the 1.75 meter guard led Maryland to a National Collegiate Athletic Association championship title.
In April, she was selected by the New York Liberty in the first round of the WNBA draft and became the only Israeli ever to play in the world's top women's basketball league.
Three Israeli men have been selected in the NBA draft, but none went on to play in the league.
In New York, Doron has mostly languished on the bench, appearing in only seven games, averaging five minutes of playing time a game and scoring just 1.4 points-a-game.
On Friday, Doron's Liberty kick off their first-round playoff battle against the defending WNBA champion Detroit Shock.
Elitzur Ramle Chairman Shmulik Levkovitz said Doron was a huge addition to his team, both in its quest to succeed in European competition and its effort to reach out to the community and fans. Attendance for the woman's league in Israel lags far behind that of the men's.
"She is the No. 1 Israeli player," Levkovitz said. "We have a diamond in our hand."
Levkovitz would not disclose any details of the contract. Doron is expected to return for a second season in the WNBA next summer.
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