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Stoudemire says he relishes their desire to improve and believes he has much basketball wisdom to impart.
Stoudemire first became acquainted with the team last summer during tryouts in Toronto. He didn’t see the squad again until training camp began in early July. During a practice session in Jerusalem Thursday, he sometimes offered one-on-one instruction, sometimes shadowing players as they moved down the court.
“What I’ve noticed most,” Stoudemire said, “is that I understand when coaches say they genuinely love their players, being around their players, liking them, that they are saddened when they go away [to other teams] or graduate.”
John Dore, the Canadian head coach, says Stoudemire has been “almost seamless” in transitioning from player to coach.
“When he speaks, they listen,” said Dore, now coaching his fifth Canadian team at the Maccabiah. “They’re learning from one of the greats in the game.”
Later, as Stoudemire struggled to navigate the swarm of athletes, he looked to Canadian player Steve Raphael as a guide. Just as on the court, Stoudemire called to his charge to set picks.
As the crowd consumed him prior to the opening ceremonies, Dore called to Raphael, “You’d better set good screens now if you want to get onto the court.”
At the practice facility, Stoudemire handled a few more questions before heading inside to join the team, indulging a query about his gold ring that evokes the ancient Temple’s priestly breastplate, its 12 sections studded with gems.
His wife, Alexis, bought it for him as a wedding gift, Stoudemire said. They were married in a private ceremony in New York in December, then hosted a lavish celebration in Miami in late June.
“One thing this represents is world peace,” Stoudemire said. “That means to have shalom, to have peace among all people. That’s the proper way to live. It keeps you humble. It represents the 12 tribes. We’re all related.”
The next afternoon, Canada jumped to an 8-1 lead over Greece following two consecutive three-point shots. But Greece came roaring back, winning the Maccabiah opener by 16 points.
When the game ended, Stoudemire struggled to reach the locker room, high-fiving everyone along the way, his face grim in defeat. Back at the hotel, he had a two-hour workout to get in, followed by dinner at a Tel Aviv restaurant. He will be joined later in the week by his wife and their four children. After the competition, they plan to tour the country a bit before heading home.
Bidding a reporter goodbye, Stoudemire offered two words: “Shabbat shalom.”