In this article we are going to look at a handful of Jewish athletes who had all the potential in the world to be great. These were athletes who were drafted high or had a small run but never became the superstars we had hoped for to carry the mantle of great Jewish athletes. Many of these stars were hampered by injury leaving us wanting more. All were tremendous college or Minor League athletes whose journey through the pros brought different results.
Sheffer was one of the first major Israeli names to burst onto the scene and he did it at UConn. He was Big East Conference Rookie of the Year and the running mate of Ray Allen. The sky was the limit and young Jewish kids marveled over one of their own playing at a top school. While he was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers with the 36th pick, ultimately he chose to return to Israel. The beginning of his career was full of success but he suddenly retired to travel and developed a more spiritual side. There may be no bigger “What If” story in Jewish sports than Sheffer.
Scheyer is a legend but only in the college basketball world. His NBA aspirations were short lived. After leading Duke to a National Championship in 2010, Scheyer found himself going undrafted. He was quickly signed to a summer league deal with the Miami Heat but suffered a devastating eye injury. Let go from the Heat, he found himself in training camp with the Clippers but the injury was too severe. His run in Israel was just as complicated but Scheyer has stayed in the game coaching at Duke.
As a Freshman at Standord Wayne went 6-0 as a relief pitcher. As a Sophomore he went 10-0 as a starter while Stanford finished in 3rd place in the College World Series. As a Junior he went 15-4 and was named co-Pac-10 Player of the Year. In 2000, the Montreal Expos made Wayne the 5th overall pick in the MLB drafted (3rd highest MoT only to Ron Blomberg #1 and Alex Bregman #2). He cruised through the Minors but was traded to the Marlins in 2002. By the age of 22 he was already in the Majors but that is where his baseball story shifts.
Hirsh was not a sought after collegiate player. But once he got to the Minors he found his groove. He became both the Texas League Pitcher of the Year (2005) and the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year (2006). He quickly became one of Houston’s top prospects so much so he was promoted to the Majors and then a corner-stone in the Jason Jennings trade. Slotted as the #4 pitcher for the Rockies, Hirsh began to battle an onslaught of injuries. He still coaches young pitchers, but MoT baseball fans are kept wondering “what if.”
Carimi might have the led a charge of Jewish NFLers. He was at a big time school and winning top honors for Offensive Linemen (2010 Outland Trophy, as the nation’s top collegiate interior lineman). The Chicago Bears drafted him in the first round and his future was bright. But Carimi fought injury after injury. In 2013, looking for a fresh start he was shipped to Tampa Bay and the following year signed with the Falcons. Injuries piled up and Carimi hung it up. Still one of the nicest athletes I have met even if his career wasn’t filled with Pro Bowls.
A year before Carimi, Mays was the buzz. He had all the talent in the world and the physical attributes to go with it. He was the #1 prospect in the State of Washington. Mays won almost every award a college safety could win. He played at Pete Carroll’s USC, but when Carroll had the chance to return the favor of drafting him; he didn’t (even though staying in school probably cost him first round status). He went #49 overall to the 49ers and never clicked with Coach Mike Singletary. Mays came and went with several teams after that never finding the right fit and fading out of football.