Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Where They Are Today - James Terry

If you were in Israel sometime during the last two decades, you probably noticed James Terry's name. not only because he made himself a name as one of the best big men that ever played here, but most of all because he spent not less than 13 years here and been all over the country.

You can say Terry is still Israeli, by heart and passport. That said, today, you can say that the 44th years old center as a former Israeli and past player. That takes nothing from the vast experience and great memories he gained with us in the Mediterranean – he agreed to share a lot of them in a conversation from his home in Maryland.

"Since I left Israel, I started a family", Terry recaps his last eight years, "I have two young children – 6 years old Lauryn and 3 years old Isaiah. I assume they'll both be big as their father and I'm very proud of them. I work as a construction supervisor, and spend my spare time fishing, something I really enjoy. I'm still big and strong, and I'm still in pretty good shape. Sometimes, I pick a ball and go to play in the neighborhood. If you ask me, I'm sure I could make a comeback in Israel, and give twenty minutes of defense and rebounding. If someone will call, I sure will be happy to come back and play in Israel".

Terry started his Israeli career in Maccabi Haifa and finished it in 1996 with Hapoel Zefat, between those two teams, Terry played in Hapoel Holon, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Hapoel Nahariya and Hapoel Eylat. During that time, he tried his luck in Italy, Spain, Greece and Argentina, but always came back to holy land. "Nahariya was the place where I had the most fun" Terry admits, "It was real fun because the team just started and nobody really expected us to win, so there was no pressure. When it comes to basketball, I liked to play for Holon and Hapoel Tel Aviv. That's where I had my biggest achievements as a player in Israel and Europe".

Throughout his time in Israel, Terry encountered problems with teams that don't pay salaries on time – something that became a chronic sickness of the Israeli league and probably is one of the reasons for its decline. "In the 1989-90 season, I felt we had a very good team in Holon, one that can really compete with Maccabi Tel Aviv. We had Desi Barmore, Gary Plummer and the outstanding guard Kevin Williams, and that gave us a pretty good chance. The problems started in the late stages of the season, when the management ran out of money. It's not that I'm mad at the team's president back then, Mishka Lapardon, but he ran out of money in the middle. That's what bothered me in Israel. Everybody promise you stuff they can't stand for. They make a budget, but can't keep up with it. After that they tell you 'mahar…mahar…(tomorrow… tomorrow…)', but in the end of the day you don't get what you deserve".

- Not much has changed since those days. How can you solve that?
"Maccabi kills the league, but to make the Israeli league better, you need to invest money. In the end, everything comes down to that, and if you don't have money, then you shouldn't promise something you can't afford. The problem is that you have so many good people that cares for their teams, but they don't know a thing about basketball. If you have a certain amount of money, bring the best players you can afford but not more than that. At least you know that you can pay the players, and they will give you all that they got. And feel dedicated to you. Maybe you won't get stars on your team, but at least they won't break and leave in the middle of the season".

Terry, how surprising, first came to Haifa after he was officially converted to Judaism, a common practice in the early eighties reality, when teams could play only one foreign player. Greg Cook was signed and Terry insisted on joining, even with the price of converting his religion. This step, like many others, sparked public criticism against the nationalized foreigners trend that gained momentum during that decade.

"I went through the conversion process because I wanted to play in Israel", Terry admits, "I enjoyed my trip to the country and in order to join Haifa I needed to be granted citizenship. I know there was criticism about the nationalized players and I can understand that. Even nowdays there are American players complaining that NBA teams pick Europeans that takes their jobs. I think it's not justified in my case, as well as in Aulcey Perry, Earl Williams and the other veterans case. If we were getting our citizenship and running away after one year I would accept the criticism, but In my opinion, we stayed in the league for many years and we helped to improve it. Anyway, personally, I didn’t let it get into me".

- Even though you got your citizenship, you declined the invitation to play for the Israeli national team.
"I was invited to take part for the NT three times, but declined them all. Thinking back, I regret it because it could have been a nice experience to play in an international tournament at least one time, but I was a young man and I missed my family in the US. The season in Israel is very long and the summer vacation was the only opportunity to try and spend some time with my close ones. I think I also needed it in order to stay fresh and charge myself with new energies. It helped me coming back to Israel year after year and stretch my career for such a long time".

Terry might not played for the Israeli national team but he got enough opportunity to feel how it feels like being an Israeli, as a player and as a citizen in all kinds of situations. One that stands high above the others, was his visit in Auschwitz concentration camp, with Hapoel Holon in 1987. "I feel lucky to have this opportunity to visit Auschwitz", Terry recalls, "It was a very important and emotional event for me and it made me understand how it feels like being Israeli and Jewish. I know how much evil came out of this place and it was very sad for me, but I do happy I visit there. You can read about it in books, but it can't really demonstrate what really happened in that damned place".

Another Israeli experience was his army service in the IDF, which was short, but exhausting. "The army was definitely an experience, although I wouldn't want to repeat it. I don't even remember how much time I spend there in the base, but I do remember every day was too long. I remember the desert, the cold showers and the food, that was awful. We learned how to shoot a M16 and how to dismantle it, but all the time I just wanted to finish it. At least I met a lot of friends there, because, like me, there were some other nationalized players that were forced to get drafted to the army. I found a lot of people there".

During his time in Israel, he found a lot of American friends like Keith Bennett, who is remembered as Terry's twin brother, and Joe Dawson. "I was blessed meet a lot of good friends in Israel and good friends are not something that someone have too much of. Joe for example is a great friend who was also a good player". Other players that Terry remembers as true greats are Kevin Magee, LaVon Mercer, Gary Plummer, Roland Houston and Andre Spencer.

- Do you have any bad memories from Israel?
"I don’t really have bad memories, maybe one strange one. When I was with Hapoel Tel Aviv we went to a game in Greece. While we were waiting to take off, the plane's engines started burning and everybody panicked and looked for their bags. I remember someone started shouting at us to leave our luggage and just evacuate. In the end the fire was extinguished and everything was fine. Eventually, you can say it was kind of funny, since we had to take back the same plane to go back home to Israel. Anyway, we weren't too happy with that".

So, if we'll exclude the bad memories from that scary incident, or the financial problems, it seems Terry has only good things to say about us, the Israelis: "The country is still deep in my heart, and even these days I'm getting updated with everything that goes on there, and I still cares a lot about it. I spent there a big part of my life as a young man and adult. I miss the beaches and the nightlife and especially to the fans. People in Israel were always willing to help, whether if you got stuck with your car at 3 am or just if you are hungry. I want to thank everybody for the memories and for that they always made me feel at home. They treated me so nice. They are great…as long as you win. They make you want to put on a show, and I, as everybody knows, always wanted to have a show".

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4 Comments:

At 6:25 PM, Blogger Lauryn said...

Hi my name is Lauryn Terry and that's how you spell my name not Loren like in the text. I'm turning eleven shortly .I am James Terry daughter I have a two brother actually .Know one is almost eight name Isaiah and another turning two name Joshua we have a new addition to the family as you can see.bye

 
At 1:31 PM, Blogger Lauryn said...

Here i am again i'm 11 i wish to go back to isreal where my dad use to play

 
At 1:31 PM, Blogger Lauryn said...

LOL ppl

 
At 5:23 PM, Blogger Isaiah said...

Lauryn shut up you are annoying

 

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