Florida’s Alex Tyus Says Shalom

By: 07.27.11  •  9 Comments
Alex Tyus

Alex Tyus (photo. University of Florida)

“As far as the conversion process, we met with our rabbi whenever we could. Sometimes that would be two times a week, or three times a week, and we had a lot of different discussions and he taught as a lot and has been a great teacher for us. Also, once we got to know enough people in the Jewish community, we would always know if there was an event going on which was really nice for us. We also attended Shabbat services on Friday nights when we could at B’Nai Israel in Gainesville, and did whatever I could during the season. Everything worked out so well for us, and we are really happy we chose this route.”

After graduating from Florida, Alex began working out for NBA teams in preparation for the draft held on June 23rd, and when the time came to choose a venue for Alex’s Draft party, the Hillel – located right across the street from the O’Connell Center where Alex starred for the Gators – offered to host the event. Unfortunately for all in attendance, Alex went undrafted. His NBA dreams were put on hold for the time being, so Alex had to think about the next move in his basketball career. He thought about playing in Spain, a country with some of Europe’s best teams, but then looked into playing in Israel. Tyus’ goal all along when finding a place to play was going somewhere where he and his wife would be comfortable, and Alex thought of no better place than Israel. Maccabi Ashdod, a team in Israel’s top League had scouted Alex heavily at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and they soon offered him a contract which Alex accepted just days after the draft.

“I felt like Israel would be a good place to go play, especially with the chance to learn more about Judaism and my wife and I have also been taking Hebrew lessons,” he says. “Maccabi Ashdod had a scout when I was at Portsmouth and they were already very interested in me coming over to play there. I also knew a couple of players who went over to play in Israel so there were guys over there who I know, which made me feel comfortable deciding to sign there.”

With his conversion process wrapping up in August, Alex and Alli will then venture to the Holy Land to begin their Jewish life together. Alex has said both are considering getting Israeli passports, and if he obtained one he said he would definitely have interest in trying out for the Israeli National Team. So while Alex is not yet an NBA All-Star, his conversion has made waves in the Jewish community, both at Florida and abroad, something Alex never expected when he decided to convert last August.

“All this attention is really surprising,” says Tyus. “What I really want people to know about this whole process though is that you don’t have to be born Jewish to live a Jewish life. Judaism helps guide how you live your life through God and through family, and this journey has been incredibly fulfilling for Alli and myself.”

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