Let’s take a look at the future of Jewish sports. I have searched high and low for the next great Jewish or Israeli sports sensations. These are the athletes on the cusp of making it to next level and becoming household names.
10) Dragan Bender
Bender is not Jewish, but he is a star in Israel. The 7-foot 1-inch stretch four is Maccabi Tel Aviv’s latest import into the NBA. Bender was selected fourth overall in last month’s NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns; getting selected that high will mean more exposure for Israelis.
9) Max Fried
Fried was the No. 7 pick of the 2012 MLB draft by the San Diego Padres. Now a member of the Atlanta Braves organization, Fried has yet to show the pitching dominance he once promised due to Tommy John surgery in 2014. There are still high hopes for Fried as the ace of a pitching staff. He is currently with the Class-A Rome Braves (that’s Georgia, not Italy).
8) Noam Dar
If you’ve read my blogs you know I love professional wrestling, and I love it even more when Israelis are the ones doing it. I recently interviewed Dar about his climb to the WWE. He is currently appearing in the Cruiserweight Championship Series, but with WWE investing more in independent talent, it’s only a matter of time before the Darctic Monkey is in the squared circle grappling with some of the best.
7) T.J. Cline
Recognize the last name? TJ is the son of NBA Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman (formerly Cline). Cline is a late bloomer; he came on very strong last season as a junior at Richmond, averaging over 18 points per game. He will return for his senior year, but will have a shot in the NBA next year, as he represents two big trends in basketball: the NBA’s interest mid-major talent and the stretch four.
6) Rhett Wiseman
Wiseman was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the third round of the 2015 MLB Draft. He is in A-ball now but has shown promise. The Vanderbilt standout is only 22 and stands at 6-foot 1-inch, 200 pounds. This season he is batting .249 with 44 RBIs for Hagerstown.
5) Daniel Braverman
If you follow the Chicago Bears’ seventh rounder on Twitter (@Dbrave_8) you will quickly learn about his work habits and why he is being compared to slots receivers Julian Edelman (fellow MOT) and Wes Welker. Braverman should make the Bears’ roster and his impact could be immediate.
4) Zach Borenstein
The pride of Arlington Heights, Illinois, Borenstein was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in 2011 and has climbed his way up to AAA within the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system. He is batting .271 in Reno and could get the call up this season; Arizona is last in the NL West at the moment and might want to explore its talent pool.
3) T.J. Leaf
UCLA get ready; the second Jewish T.J. on our list is a 6-foot 10-inch Israeli-American basketball player. Leaf, No. 13 in the ESPN 100, originally committed to Arizona, but eventually decided on UCLA. High hopes for Leaf!
2) Josh Rosen
Speaking of UCLA, Josh Rosen showed tremendous potential for the Bruins’ football team last season as a true freshman. Many project the quarterback to be a first round draft pick in the NFL when he declares for the draft. Rosen has a great arm and star-quality moxie.
1) Alex Bregman
The second overall pick of the 2015 MLB draft (only Ron Blomberg was drafted higher in 1967), Bregman is either the future star or a major trade piece for the Houston Astros. The former is looking more likely; the shortstop made his case for the Majors when he nearly hit for the cycle in this weekend’s MLB All-Star Futures Game. Recently called up to Triple-A, Bregman is batting a remarkable .389 with five HRs in just eight games. If Carlos Correa wasn’t in front of him, he might already be on the Astros’ roster.