Alex Tyus, a former University of Florida Gators basketball star might have one of the most interesting stories in European basketball today. During his time with the Gators, Tyus decided to embark on a personal journey and convert to Judaism. After hosting his 2011 NBA draft party at the University’s Hillel, Tyus was not selected in the draft. Shortly after the draft, Tyus signed a contract with Israeli basketball club Maccabi Ashdod.
In the fall of 2011, Tyus arrived in Israel and began to impress the press and the fans. Alex had a breakout season averaging 13.3 points per game while shooting a sizzling 66 percent from the field. Tyus also led his team in rebounding averaging 8.3 rebounds per game. Many scouts from European clubs began to gain interest in Tyus as well local powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Thanks to his change in status, Tyus qualified to be a member of the Israeli national team. To many people’s surprise, Tyus was invited to join the national squad during the summer as it attempted to qualify for the 2013 Eurobasket finals. Tyus was a key player in the squad as it finished in second place with a record of 6-4.
Last July, Cantu, a member in the top division of Italian basketball and a participant in the Euroleague, announced it had signed Tyus.
This year Tyus had a highlight season, which included multiple No. 1 top 10 Italian League plays of the week, and has strived during his brief Euroleague career to prove he’s fit for the big leagues.
Italian European basketball expert and Sportando Emiliano Carchia spoke with Haaretz and said, “Alex Tyus started the season above expectations, than he had some problems (he was also hospitalized for a few days). In the last few games he improved his game again. Cantu is expecting a lot from him for the playoffs and I am sure he will step up for the playoffs.”
Haaretz spoke with Tyus, as his team is battling in the Serie A playoffs. He discussed his time in Italy, representing Israel and his future aspirations.
What has been your favorite part about playing in Italy?
“My favorite part about playing in Italy is the level of competition teams wise, playing in one of the best leagues in Europe and also how big the basketball is in every city considering how big Italy is.”
What has the transition been like from Israel’s Super League to the Euroleague and Serie A?
“I think I have made a very good transition. The biggest difference is that the intensity of the games is higher in the Serie A league.”
When this season ends, attention will return to the Eurobasket finals. Some of the top European players in the NBA will be participating this summer, including Bulls All-Star Joakim Noah for France, Ricky Rubio for Spain, and many more active NBA players.
Tell us what you are most looking forward to in this summer’s Eurobasket.
“I am really excited about playing with my Israeli teammates, having the chance to play against the NBA players and by representing Israel.”
How excited are you that you are able to represent the country of Israel on a world stage?
“I am extremely honored, it’s a dream to be able to represent Israel, I am very proud.”
Have you missed Israel the past year? If so, what did you miss most about it?
“Yes I have missed Israel for a lot for many of reasons. One of the main reasons would have to be all of my friends and Israeli families.”
Can you describe what life has been like for you since you left the University of Florida and where you are now?
“Life has been amazing. I feel that a lot happened very quickly that I didn’t even plan or ever think that could happen the past two years. I honestly can say I would not change anything that has happened.”
Do you still keep in contact with all the guys from Maccabi Ashdod and Coach Ofer Berkovich?
“I haven’t really spoke with the coach, but I have spoken to some of the players and kept in touch with them.”
What are your goals for the next few years, do you still aspire to reach the NBA?
“The NBA is a possibility. I may play in a summer league in the future, but it all depends on how things play out. If I decided to continue to just play overseas I wouldn’t be to upset about that.”