Ready for 4th pro basketball season in Israel

By Marc Katz, Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer

At first, when Nate Miller’s agent suggested he sign to play with a basketball team in Israel, Miller — a Springfield South High School and Bowling Green University graduate — wasn’t sure he wanted to go.

“My wife and I were a little worried about going to Israel,” said the 27-year-old Miller, who was leaving at the end of August to play a fourth season there, and was scheduled to talk about it at a Temple Shalom sports night.

“We didn’t know much about it, just what we heard on the news. When I hear Israel, I think Middle East, war, fighting, killing each other and all that. This is the thing I get from all the news stations here in the States. This is how they portray Israel. This Middle Eastern state constantly fighting. There’s nothing there except killing each other. It was the furthest thing from truth.”

Nate Miller plays for Ironi Nahariya in Israel’s north
Nate Miller plays for Ironi Nahariya in Israel’s north

That’s what Miller, a 6-foot-4 guard, found out when he needed a job, and at the time, Israel was the only country calling. He had played briefly in Spain following his graduation from Bowling Green, but European teams overflow with requests from players. A long-term contract didn’t develop in Spain.

“We ended up going,” Miller said. “We took a leap of faith. It ended up being the best thing I could have done. It helped my basketball, and when I got there, there was nothing to be nervous about. It was unbelievable. To this day, I would tell anybody if you have an opportunity to play in Israel, I would take it.”

His 3-year-old son, Nathan III, was born in Israel, goes to school there and speaks Hebrew fluently. In the summer, the family returns to the United States and currently lives in Columbus.

After playing one season in Israel, Miller was wooed to play for a team in Mexico, then in Argentina. He ended up back in Israel, playing for Ironi Nahariya in the north.

“Israel is a lot like the United States,” he said. “The people speak English as a second language. There are television stations and movies in English. The people cater to you. I’m not worried about Israel. To me, I’m more worried about the planes disappearing. I don’t worry about Israel in general. I’m here in Columbus, Ohio, and God forbid, I have to walk out on the street and you never know what’s going to greet me here. It could be more dangerous here than it is (in Israel). They really don’t have crime like we have here in the States.”

For several summers, Miller has sponsored a free basketball camp for kids in Springfield, promoting his “3D model” for living: discipline, determination, and dedication.

Miller led Ironi Nahariya to the second-tier National League championship last season, which moves it to the first tier for the coming season. Miller scored more than 20 points a game.

The conflict in Gaza is far from where Miller plays, but it’s still on his mind. He just hopes it can be resolved before he goes again.

To read the complete September 2014 Dayton Jewish Observer, click here.

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