Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

Basketball has become a way for Ofri Naveh to ‘break’ from the crisis in his home of Israel

MORGANTOWN — In the span of few months, Ofri Naveh has had two different worlds turned upside down.

The WVU men’s basketball forward is a native of Neot Golan, Israel, which is in the northern part of the country near the borders of both Syria and Jordan.

On Oct. 7, the war between Hamas and Israel began, with Naveh more than 6,000 miles away from his family at a major time of crisis.

“The stuff going on at home is crazy, but I try to do what I can from here to help my family and my friends,” Naveh said Sunday night, after the Mountaineers held off Bellarmine, 62-58. “Basketball, for me, helps me concentrate. It gives me a break from that.”


Which brings us to the second time Naveh has had the unexpected hit him.

He first came to the United States this summer to enroll at WVU after playing in the FIBA under-18 European Championships.

That was all set up through the recruiting of WVU assistant coach Da’Sean Butler, who played some of his final professional seasons overseas in Israel.

“I saw him play a couple of times,” Naveh said of Butler. “He was very good.”

Naveh was on a WVU roster, at the time, that seemed to have little room for him as far as playing time this season.

“I was thinking coming here that playing five minutes would have been a blessing,” he admits.

And then the world changed. RaeQuan Battle’s eligibility waiver was denied. Akok Akok went down with a medical issue and Kerr Kriisa was suspended for the first nine games of the season.

If Naveh had never heard of the American sports theory of next man up, well, he is truly living it in his first year.

He was thrust into the starting lineup against Jacksonville State in the Mountaineers’ third game of the season.

His original expectation of playing five minutes suddenly turned into playing 26 minutes per game.

“Being a starter, it’s all about character,” Naveh said. “You get the opportunity, you have to take it. I hope things continue to go well.”

So far, they have for Naveh, who had his best game of the season against the Knights, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds in 32 minutes of action.

He was 2-for-3 from 3-point range and he’s tied with teammate Josiah Harris as the Mountaineers’ second-leading rebounder.

“I wasn’t really surprised, because I know I’m good,” Naveh said. “I know I’ve been making plays in practice and I’m doing my best. I haven’t really been surprised. I’ve just been grateful.”

Naveh’s teammates took an instant liking to him through his work ethic and his ability to keep everyone’s spirits up.

“You bring this kid over who is just 17 or 18 years old to play at this high level,” WVU forward Quinn Slazinski said earlier this season. “Since the first day of practice, we knew he was special. That kid comes to practice to get better every single day.

“I was talking to him after the game and I said, ‘Listen, if you keep continuing to get better and keep playing hard, your life is going to be very, very fun.’”

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