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Deni Avdija

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Deni Avdija
Deni Avdija Maccabi (cropped) 2.jpg
Avdija with Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2019
No. 9 – Washington Wizards
PositionSmall forward
LeagueNBA
Personal information
Born (2001-01-03) 3 January 2001 (age 19)
Beit Zera, Israel
NationalityIsraeli / Serbian
Listed height6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)
Listed weight210 lb (95 kg)
Career information
NBA draft2020 / Round: 1 / Pick: 9th overall
Selected by the Washington Wizards
Playing career2017–present
Career history
2017–2020Maccabi Tel Aviv
2020–presentWashington Wizards
Career highlights and awards
Stats at NBA.com
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com

Deni Avdija (Hebrew: דני אבדיה‎, Serbian Cyrillic: Дени Авдија; born 3 January 2001) is an Israeli-Serbian professional basketball player for the Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He plays the small forward position.[1]

The son of basketball player Zufer Avdija, he joined Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2013 and excelled as a youth player. He debuted for their senior team in 2017, at age 16, becoming the youngest in club history. Two years later, he became the youngest player to ever win the Israeli League Most Valuable Player (MVP) award and led his team to the Israeli League championship.

In 2020, Avdija declared for the NBA draft, joining the Washington Wizards.

Avdija is also a member of the Israeli senior national team. He has won two gold medals for Israel at the youth level, including at the 2019 FIBA U20 European Championship, where he was named tournament MVP.

Early life and youth career

Avdija was born on kibbutz Beit Zera, Israel.[2] He played association football until he entered fourth grade, when he began focusing on basketball. His father, Zufer Avdija, played for the Yugoslavian national team prior to moving to Israel and playing for those teams.[3] Avdija initially competed at the youth level for Bnei Herzliya, and in 2013, he joined the youth ranks of Maccabi Tel Aviv where he played under the coach Shai Omer.[4] From 2017 to 2019, Avdija led Maccabi Tel Aviv to three consecutive Israeli youth state championships.[5] In August 2018, he participated in Basketball Without Borders Europe in Belgrade, where he was named camp MVP.[6][7]

In January 2019, Avdija played for Maccabi Tel Aviv's U18 team at Adidas Next Generation Tournament (ANGT) in Munich. He was selected to the all-tournament team after leading the event with 24.3 points, 6 assists and 3.8 steals per game and a Performance Index Rating (PIR) of 31.5. Avdija also ranked second among all players with 11 rebounds per game, while helping his team finish in second place.[8] In February, at NBA All-Star Weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, Avdija was named MVP of the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp.[9] In May, he joined Maccabi Tel Aviv's U18 team for the ANGT Finals. He collected all-tournament team honours after leading the event with 24.7 points and 12 rebounds per game with a PIR of 29.7, while ranking second with 6.7 assists per game.[10]

Professional career

Maccabi Tel Aviv (2017–2020)

On 5 November 2017, Avdija started his professional career with Maccabi Tel Aviv, signing a six-year deal with the club.[11] On 19 November, he made his professional debut in the Israeli Premier League, playing three minutes against Ironi Nes Ziona. At 16 years and 320 days of age, he became the youngest player to ever play for his club's senior team.[12][13] Avdija made his EuroLeague debut on 22 November 2018, at the age of 17, in a 74–70 loss to Fenerbahçe. He scored two points in three minutes of playing time.[14]

Avdija (left) attempts a three-pointer over Olimpia Milano's Vladimir Micov in November 2019.

On 24 October 2019, at the age of 18, Avdija made his first start in the EuroLeague, recording six points and three rebounds in 16 minutes in a 76–63 victory over Valencia.[15] On 11 January 2020, Avdija recorded a then career-high of 22 points, shooting 9-of-15 from the field, and five assists in a 94–83 win over Hapoel Holon.[16] On 31 January 2020, Avdija was named Israeli Player of the Month in the Israeli League after averaging 14.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, with an 18.3 PIR, in four games played that month.[17] On 1 February 2020, Avdija established a new career-high of 26 points, shooting 9-of-12 from the field, and grabbed six rebounds in an 86–81 loss to Hapoel Eilat.[18] Six days later, he scored 13 points, including eight in the second quarter, in a 78–77 victory over Fenerbahçe.[19] His dunk over Luigi Datome during the game would be named EuroLeague Magic Moment of the Season in July 2020.[20] On 16 April, Avdija declared for the 2020 NBA draft.[21]

Avdija's season was suspended for about three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He returned to action on 21 June, recording 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 24 minutes in a 114–82 win over Maccabi Ashdod.[22] On 23 July, he scored 22 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and grabbed 10 rebounds in an 83–68 win over Hapoel Tel Aviv, helping Maccabi Tel Aviv advance to the Israeli League Final Four.[23] In the Final on 28 July, Avdija recorded five points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals to help Maccabi Tel Aviv defeat Maccabi Rishon LeZion, 86–81.[24] He became the youngest player to ever win the Israeli League MVP award.[25] Avdija was also named Israeli League Israeli Player of the Year and was an All-Israeli League First Team selection.[26] He finished the season averaging 12.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in the Israeli League. In the EuroLeague, Avdija averaged four points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 14.3 minutes per game.[27]

Washington Wizards (2020–present)

Avdija was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft by the Washington Wizards.[28][29] He officially signed a rookie contract with the Wizards on December 1, 2020.[30][31]

National team career

Junior team

Although he had also been eligible to represent Serbia internationally, due to his father's background, Avdija chose to play for Israel because he had friends there and was more familiar with its language.[32] He competed for Israel at the 2017 FIBA U16 European Championship in Podgorica. Avdija led the tournament with 12.6 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game, to go with 15.3 points per game.[33][34]

Avdija shoots a free throw for Israel at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament in April 2018.

In April 2018, Avdija averaged over 17 points and nine rebounds for Israel at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament, an under-18 competition in Mannheim.[35] In July 2018, he played at the FIBA U20 European Championship in Chemnitz, leading Israel to a gold medal. Avdija averaged 12.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game, while earning a spot on the all-tournament team with teammate Yovel Zoosman.[36][37] Later that month, Avdija competed at the FIBA U18 European Championship Division B in Skopje. Appearing tired from his previous tournament and lacking in endurance, he averaged 17.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.4 steals per game.[38]

In July 2019, Avdija led Israel to a second straight gold medal at the FIBA U20 European Championship in Tel Aviv. He averaged 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.4 blocks and 2.1 steals per game, earning MVP and all-tournament team accolades, as the second-youngest player at the event.[39][40] Avdija tallied 26 points, 11 rebounds and 5 steals against France in the semifinal, before recording 23 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks against Spain in the final.[41][42]

Senior team

On 21 February 2019, Avdija made his debut for the Israeli senior national team, in an 81–77 win over Germany, during the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualification stage.[43] On 24 February 2020, he recorded 21 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes in an 87–63 victory over Romania during the EuroBasket 2021 qualifiers.[44]

His free throw shooting is not as strong as his otherwise versatile game; in 59 games for Maccabi, he averaged 59% from the free throw line and 33% from the 3-point zone.[45]

Personal life

His father Zufer Avdija was born in Pristina, Yugoslavia (nowadays in Kosovo), and is a Serbian-Israeli citizen of Gorani-Muslim heritage.[2][39][46] A professional basketball player in Yugoslavia and Israel, Zufer spent 11 years of his playing career with Crvena zvezda and was the team's captain in the 1980s, before moving to the Israeli Premier League in the 1990s and playing 8 seasons for Israeli clubs Ramat HaSharon, Rishon LeZion, Hapoel Tel Aviv, and Elitzur Bat Yam.[4][39][47] He also represented the Yugoslavian national team internationally, with whom he won the bronze medal at the 1982 FIBA World Championship.[3] Avdija's mother, Sharon Artzi, an Israeli Jew from Kibbutz Beit Zera, is a former track and field athlete and basketball player.[2][3][47][48]

Avdija holds dual citizenship of Israel and Serbia, the latter because his father is a Serbian citizen.[32][49] When he turned 18 years old, he received a deferment from mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) due to his basketball career.[48] On 1 April 2020, while the basketball season was suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Avdija was drafted into the IDF for a short service.[50]

In the 2020 NBA draft interview, Avdija stated that his father is from Kosovo, Serbia, appearing with an Israel–Serbia flags pin on the lapel of his suit jacket.[51]

Career statistics

Legend
  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field-goal percentage  3P%  3-point field-goal percentage  FT%  Free-throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  PIR  Performance Index Rating
 Bold  Career high

Note: The EuroLeague is not the only competition in which the player participated for the team during the season. He also played in domestic competition, and regional competition if applicable.

EuroLeague

Source[52][53]
Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG PIR
2018–19 Maccabi Tel Aviv 8 0 6.4 .444 .500 1.000 1.5 .3 .1 .0 3.9 3.0
2019–20 26 5 14.3 .436 .277 .556 2.6 1.2 .4 .2 4.0 3.9
Career 34 5 12.4 .438 .316 .600 2.4 .9 .3 .2 4.0 3.5

References

  1. ^ "Deni Avdija". NBA.com. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c "Deni Avdija". Maccabi Tel Aviv. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Sachs, Frankie (23 October 2019). "Conversation with Deni Avdija, Maccabi". EuroLeague. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b "מניה בצמיחה / דני אבדיה הוא הדבר הבא" (in Hebrew). Ynet. 18 July 2018. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  5. ^ "בפעם הרביעית ברציפות: קבוצת הנוער של מכבי ת"א זכתה באליפות" (in Hebrew). Ynet. 29 May 2019. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  6. ^ "Jokic, Vucevic Headline Basketball Without Borders Europe 2018". NBA. 14 August 2018. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  7. ^ Djordjevic, Stefan (18 August 2018). "Deni Avdija named Basketball Without Borders MVP". EuroHoops. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  8. ^ Hein, David (28 January 2019). "Maccabi's Avdija is just #LivingTheDream". Euroleague Basketball Next Generation Tournament. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  9. ^ Gay, Carlan (18 February 2019). "Deni Avdija, Aaliyah Mckenzie Edwards take home MVP at Basketball Without Borders Global 2019". NBA.com. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  10. ^ "MVP Nakic of Real Madrid headlines All-Tournament Team". Euroleague Basketball Next Generation Tournament. 19 May 2019. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  11. ^ Carchia, Emiliano (5 November 2017). "Maccabi Tel Aviv signs prospect Deni Avdija to a six-year contract". Sportando. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
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  15. ^ "Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv vs. Valencia Basket – Game". EuroLeague. 24 October 2019. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
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  22. ^ "Deni Avdija erupts with 23 points in Israeli League's return". EuroHoops. 21 June 2020. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
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  30. ^ "OFFICIALLY SIGNED!". Washington Wizards twitter account. December 1, 2020. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
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  34. ^ "2017 FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship Players Statistics". fiba.basketball. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
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  47. ^ a b Schmitz, Mike (29 July 2019). "Deni Avdija could be a polarizing top draft prospect in 2020". ESPN. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
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External links