By Jeff Taylor
If anyone can deliver a message to girls about the wonders of basketball and the rewards it can bring for those who play the game, it is former Israel international Anat Draigor.
As the coordinator for women's basketball at the Basketball Federation of Israel, Draigor has taken a novel approach to sharing her love of hoops with others.
The 49-year-old has overseen the Basketball Squad Car project and literally, with other trained staff, driven thousands of miles to introduce the sport around the country.
|Almost 10,000 young Israeli girls have been introduced to basketball through the squad car project.|
The vision shared by Draigor, the Basketball Federation of Israel and FIBA Europe, is for the game to be accessible to children, girls and women everywhere across the country, and for it to serve as a means of teaching moral and educational values.
As the name suggests, there is a car, painted yellow and purple and with pictures of girls and women playing the sport that Draigor packs basketball-related items into, including t-shirts, balls, water bottles and much more.
She and her colleagues then drive to different places, setting up clinics for children.
The project has been possible because of monies made available by the FIBA Europe Development Fund and the response has been overwhelmingly positive, whether it's school administrators and teachers, or children and their parents.
It's been such a hit that Draigor told FIBA Europe: "The joy in their eyes gives me tremendous faith to continue and expand the project to other countries."
According to Draigor, the evidence shows that of the more than 9,000 girls exposed to the sport by the Basketball Squad Car project, 35% continue to practice throughout the year regularly.
"This is an amazing figure and it gives me great satisfaction," Draigor said.
Draigor was eager to give something back to the sport that was so good to her.
She began playing the game when she was 14. Once Draigor turned professional, she spent the bulk of her career with Elitzur Holon.
Basketball also offered her the chance to move abroad and live in France where she had stints with Clermont-Ferrand and Racing club de Paris and even became a French citizen.
She also represented her country.
Against Czechoslovakia at the European Championship for Women in 1991, Draigor poured in 33 points.
She averaged more than 19 for the tournament
Not long ago, she even went into the Guinness Book of World Records for scoring a Wilt Chamberlain-like 136 points in a lower league game while suited up for the Israeli team, Mate Hehuda.
"Indeed this a Guinness record," she said.
"I retired from playing professional basketball at 34 and started a family. I gave birth to two daughters who today are the ages of 10 and 15.
"At 45, I went to play in a lower league and at the age of 46, I played against a weak team."
The record stood at 118 points and Draigor established the new mark while playing for Mate Yehuda against Elitzur Givat Shmuel.
Mate Yehuda won that game, 158-41.
It's no wonder that girls want her to sign their t-shirts.
It's far too early to tell if a hidden gem will be unearthed by the Basketball Squad Car project.
When it comes to children, Draigor said, "You have to be patient and wait."
The project is making the women's game more visible and Draigor doesn't hesitate when asked if there are promising players that she and the other coaches have come into contact with.
"There are talented girls at the basketball training camps," she said. "The clubs nurture the talent and the girls work hard."