Mazel Tov, Omri!  
Omri Casspi, Maccabi Tel Aviv’s young forward, made history when he became the first Israeli ever selected in the first round of the NBA draft, thus guaranteeing him a contract. Casspi, who turned 21 just three days earlier, was selected with the 23rd pick by the Sacramento Kings.

Casspi was an early entry candidate for the 2008 draft, but withdrew his name when it could not be deemed certain that he would be selected in the coveted first round. In previous years, UConn star Doron Sheffer, and more recently Yotam Halperin and Lior Eliyahu, were drafted in the second round, which carries no guarantee.

Casspi watched the NBA draft (which was televised in the wee hours of Friday morning) at his family’s home in Yavneh, and said, “Wow, this is like a dream! I have waited for this my whole life. I am really excited. I felt that Sacramento was really interested in me. They followed me for some time. I am really happy to be where I am right now!”

The Kings have yet to determine if they will include Casspi in their roster next year or elect to have him remain in Israel or elsewhere in Europe to mature as a player. Casspi is slated to be in touch with the Kings front office later Friday.