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Articles > Jewish candidate hopeful for NBA Draft

There hasn't been a Jewish player in the NBA since Danny Schayes retired in 1999. That could change, when 7 foot 1 inch Robert Rothbart along with 132 other candidates hopes to hear his name called in the 2005 NBA Draft, to be held in Madison Square Garden in New York.

In the past couple of weeks, Robert has been flying around the country, holding workouts with nearly a dozen teams, including the 76'ers, the Sonics, the Suns, the Lakers, the Pacers, the Knicks and the Nets.

"From what he tells me, it's been going quite well," said Robert's mother, Nada, awaiting Robert's return home from the latest tryout in Philadelphia. "He really feels that he belongs among the other candidates." NBA scouts say he has excellent coordination for a seven-footer.

Along with his size, Robert comes by his basketball aspirations quite honestly. His mother was a player in her native Yugoslavia, going at one point to Sarajevo, in what became Bosnia and Herzegovina to play with a local club, and it was there that Robert was born in 1986. In 1992, with bombs falling all around them, the family, along with 17 other Jewish families, left for Israel, where they ended up in Tiberias. A year later, they moved to Herzliya, where Nada signed a contract with Bnei Herzliya basketball club. Robert, meanwhile, was already developing his own skills.

When the family uprooted once again, this time for employment reasons, relocating to California, Robert went on to play for both his high school team, and AAU ball. Aft4er graduating in 2004, he was offered a scholarship to Indiana University, but elected to go to Europe, where his agent felt he would be better situated to prepare for an NBA career. He signed last summer with Racing Paris, a top team in the French league.

"Unfortunately, Robert was injured throughout the season, and only got to play in 6 games at the end," his mother reported. He had originally declared for the 2004 draft, but when all indications were that he wouldn't go any higher than 34, he pulled out, making him eligible this time around.

"Whether he goes in this year's draft, or gets the call next year, or in 3 years, we don't know, but we're pretty confident that eventually it will happen for him," said Nada.

In the meantime, Robert has promised his mother that he will continue his education, working towards his B.A. online, and maintains ambitions to eventually pursue a law degree. (David Stern, move over!!!). The holder of 4 passports (Bosnian, Serbian, Israel and American), Robert says that no matter what else, he considers himself a Jew. Having picked up Hebrew during his time in Israel, he continues to stay abreast of Jewish and Israel affairs, taking books with him when he travels.

As far as a young man who just turned 19 last week traipsing around the country by himself, Nada says, "he's lived in 3 different continents. He has been a world traveler since he was 10. He's pretty comfortable traveling by himself anywhere."

Just not on the court......

Good luck on Tuesday, Robert!!!!

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