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American teaches hoops to Israeli kids

Former Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball star Aulcie Perry poses with participants in one of his sports clinics for kids in Tel Aviv. (Courtesy Aulcie Perry)

Former Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball star Aulcie Perry poses with participants in one of his sports clinics for kids in Tel Aviv. (Courtesy Aulcie Perry)

LOS ANGELES, April 21 (JTA) — Aulcie Perry is a tall man — and a man who stands tall in Israel. At 6 feet 11 inches, the former professional basketball center would stand out in a crowd anywhere in the world. In Israel, Perry draws crowds of cheering fans, especially youngsters. “I’ve been here a long time,” said Perry, an African-American born in Newark. “Israel has been very good to me.” Perry has been very good to Israel as well. After a successful career with the country’s top basketball team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Perry, 54, operates summer basketball clinics for children 7 to 14 years old in Tel Aviv — and as worldwide attention focuses on the NBA playoffs, he’s about to open another one. Eight years ago, Perry and Greg Cornelius, an American hoopster from East Carolina University who played professionally in Israel, met to plan a summer camp for youngsters. The result was the Basketball for Stars summer camp, held at the Wingate Sports Institute near Netanya. “It is a very, very high-quality affair,” Perry said. “I bring the best coaches, and also coaches who are Israeli and were star players here in Israel. I also bring in the top players from Maccabi to come in and talk to the kids.” Perry’s new venture will be open to children from all over the world. Along with Jewish sports heroes such as Tal Brody and Tamir Goodman, Perry is introducing a three-week sports camp called Sal Stars, or Hoop Stars in English translation. Perry came to Israel in 1976 as a rejected NBA player who was trying to work on his game on a summer league team. He impressed representatives from Maccabi Tel Aviv. “I came to Europe to work on my game and then go back and try again with the NBA,” Perry said. “Maccabi came to me. I signed up for two months. We won the European Cup. “Things never looked the same again. Maccabi has been the top team since,” he said. Brody, from Trenton, N.J., was a star player in the United States. A college All-American in the 1960s, he was drafted as a top player in the NBA draft but instead chose to come to Israel. “Tal Brody is ‘Mr. Basketball’ in Israel,” Perry said. “He changed basketball here.” Perry and Brody, who was the team captain, helped Maccabi Tel Aviv win the European championship in 1977, Perry’s first year in Israeli basketball. The win put Maccabi “on the map to stay,” Brody once said. During his career, Perry also led Maccabi to victory in the 1981 European Cup, the 1980 Intercontinental Cup, nine league championships and eight National Cups. Sal Stars will teach not only basketball but some tennis and soccer as well, Perry said. The program is open to Jewish kids from around the world, though it’s aimed at Torah-observant Jewish teens. Sal Stars is based in Givat Washington, a religious sports university near Ashdod. Givat Washington has world-renowned sports facilities, some of Israel’s best athletic trainers and excellent accommodations. “The three-week camp will give them the highest quality of coaching and training in sports as well as giving them the Israeli experience,” Perry said. “We get a lot of kids from abroad. A lot of Jewish families that are working abroad send their kids to the camp to introduce them to Israel. They’ll travel. They’ll see the country, the historic sites. It’s going to be something special.” The clinic runs from July 7-28. Participants also will spend time touring desert springs, ancient tunnels, rolling hills and beaches, Perry said. In March, Perry, who also is a sports agent, looked for potential players for international leagues. He scouted young talent from black colleges during the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Basketball Tournament in North Carolina. While Perry was with Maccabi he would bring traffic to a halt as fans jockeyed for a view of a man who, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin said, helped bring “honor to the people of Israel.” Perry played high school ball at West Side High in Newark and college ball for Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fla. In 1975 he had a short stint with the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association. But it was in Israel that Perry found his game and his home, he said. Today, Perry, who is unmarried and has a son who’s 28, observes Jewish holidays, but said in an e-mail that he “doesn’t like to classify” himself religiously. “In Israel, they are more concerned about what you can do than what color your skin is,” Perry said. “You’ll have the opportunity if you’re capable and have something to offer.” (For more information about Perry’s summer camps, visit www.sal-stars.com and www.sal-stars.co.il.).

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