Amit Vigoda will start studying at the University of Texas at Arlington next season. The young Israeli player, who started his career in California has also had success representing his home country at the U22 European Championships. He will return stateside when the new academic year begins to further progress in basketball and education. Rollt.’s Dylan Cummings spoke with Vigoda prior to his move to Texas.
Why did you choose study and play at UTA?
“I chose to study and play at UTA because I’m convinced that they have a fantastic program, in regard to both academics and wheelchair basketball. I visited UTA in January 2020 and was very impressed by the school, Coach Garner, the staff and of course, the team.”
How do you intend to fit into the team?
“After a gruelling 24-hour door-to-door trip from my home in Israel to the UTA campus, I immediately joined team practice. From the first moment and during the following days, I felt very much at home with the team. They were very welcoming and displayed great chemistry amongst them. I am confident that it is the best fit for me.”
Why did you choose to move to America for college?
“In Israel, we have mandatory military service – nearly three years for men. Two of my older brothers currently serve and all my friends from school will be enlisting after graduation. Because of my disability, I have an automatic exemption and realized that I need to pave my own, unique path. Wheelchair basketball is clearly my passion but getting a university education and degree is also critical for me. Moving to America for college enables me to combine studies with high-level basketball. Thus, the decision was a no brainer.”
What does it mean to you to be the only player from Israel on the UTA team?
“I am always proud to represent Israel wherever I go and hope to do so in the best way possible. I am also excited about meeting people from the States and from all over the world. As a child, I spent three years living in California, so I am somewhat familiar with American culture. Also, during the past five years I’ve travelled with my Israeli team all over Europe and have had the amazing opportunity to meet people from a wide variety of places and cultures.”
What will challenge you in the intercollegiate league?
“I believe that there will be a few challenges in my adjustment to the intercollegiate league. Firstly, I am used to having a number of games each week spread out over a week rather than tournaments concentrated over a weekend or a few days. Also, I will have to get used to the different rules such as having 10 seconds to get the ball over the half compared to the European eight second rule as well as the 30-second shot clock.”
How do you think the styles of play will differ between Ilan Ramat Gan and UTA?
“I am not really sure yet. I am excited to discover what it will it be like at UTA.”
What are the similarities and differences between the Israeli league and the NWBA intercollegiate league?
“As I said above, the main difference as I know is the longer time period to get across half court as well as the longer shot clock. In the Israeli Division I league; we have players ranging in age from 15 to 50 and I am assuming that the age range in the NWBA intercollegiate league is less broad.”
What goals do you want to achieve at UTA?
“I would like to successfully earn a degree. Right now, I am focused on business management, but I understand that once I am there, I will be able to experience additional fields and my interests may shift. Also, I hope to maximize my potential as a player.”
What’s next for the Israeli national team?
“This is a difficult question. Right now, I am playing on the U22 Israel National Team and we have the U22 European Championships coming up in August. I believe that we have fantastic coaches and a great support staff as well as really promising young players and of course, supportive families. I believe that our young team will continue to develop and one day, soon, will bring glory to Israel.”
How does Israeli culture differ from American culture?
“I believe that there are many differences as well as similarities and also, there are subcultures in each group. First of all, America is huge and the culture I am familiar that in California or New York (where my grandparents and uncle live) is probably very different than the culture in Texas. I do know that Israel is very family and community-oriented and it is a bit strange that an 18-year-old will travel so far away from his family to study in college. Also, Israelis tend to be very direct and say what they mean and feel, sometimes without a filter whereas, I believe Americans are more polite yet formal. It may take me a few moments to be able to fully adjust. However, I hope to become culturally competent in a wide variety of cultures.”
What will you miss the most about Israel when you are studying in America?
“I’ll really miss Israeli food and our youth culture. Of course, I’ll also miss my family and my friends as well as my coaches and teammates.”
How would you describe your style of play?
“I can play both inside and outside. I can play the pick and roll. I always look for the best shot option even if I won’t be the one taking the shot. I am loud on the court and it’s important for me to help keep my teammates motivated. In my opinion, defence is as important, if not more, than offensive play.”
Has anyone specifically influenced you to play the way you do?
“Over the years, I have experienced different coaches and coaching styles and I try to adopt the best of each. I began my career under the direction of Coach Trooper Johnson and then continued in Israel with coaches Lior Dror and Gadi Slovik.”
What piece of advice has stuck with you throughout your career?
“At the very beginning of my career I learned the lesson that still accompanies me at every practice and every game. Coach Trooper Johnson taught me at my first tournament that sportsmanship and respect for myself, my team and my opponents is more important than winning or losing a game.”
If you could do a training session with three other players from anywhere in the world male or female to improve your skills, which players would you choose and why?
“I would choose Patrick Anderson, Steve Serio and Terry Bywater because they are some of the best players in the world and I would love to learn from the best.”
Thanks for your time man!
Rollt. would like to thank Amit Vigoda for the interview.
Amit Vigoda Profile
Date of birth: 22/08/2002 (aged 17)
Started playing: 2012
Disability: Below knee amputee
Future Club: University of Texas at Arlington, USA (starting September 2020)
_BORP Junior Road Warriors, USA (2012-15)
_Israel Sports Centre for the Disabled, ISR (2015-20)
_Ilan Ramat Gan, ISR (2017-20)
_My first international tournament in Toulouse, France five years ago.
_Going to the first European Championship with the U22 National Team in 2017
_Winning the Israeli Championship for the first time in 2018
_Champions League Preliminary Rounds – Being named as one of the All-Star 5 – Season 2018/19
Interview: Dylan Cummings | Photo: Uli Gasper