From Hilbert to the Holy Land

by Al Stark 

My son, Trevor Stark, was called “A Diamond in the Rough” by SLAM Magazine. This was when he was roaming the backcourt for Robert F. Kennedy High School in Flushing, Queens from 2007 to 2011. He eventually became the Panthers’ all-time leading scorer with 1,325 points, while leading the PSAL (Public School Athletic League) in free throw percentage (along with averaging over 26 points per game), in his senior season.

Although Trevor represented NYC in the New York Empire State games, not many 5-10 guards from the ‘B’ division of the PSAL with little national AAU exposure receive college scholarships. So Trevor took his game to Hamburg, NY (15 minutes outside of Buffalo), to play for The Hilbert Hawks, in the Allegheny Mountain Conference. He ended up the second all-time assist leader in the school’s history, along with the single game record with 15 dimes. He closed out his college career as Hilbert’s all-time leader in free throw percentage, scoring over 30 points four times in his four seasons and again hitting the 1,000-point career scoring mark. After graduating with honors, where does that leave an undersized, under-the-radar D3 college player, who refuses to give up the ‘hoop dream?’

Fast forward to June when Trevor spent two weeks on an Israel Birthright trip, which emphasizes a cultural, historical and a structured 10 days in Israel. He dribbled his basketball in every village, desert and hotel lobby, hoping to get a tryout in any league. But wait, the final buzzer didn’t sound yet…

Back in the US, after signing a contract with agent Matan Siman Tov under 2Talent Sports Management and after receiving a college game film, the ball started to bounce in a different direction.

July brought Trevor back to NYC, hoping to get a call from across the world. While waiting, he filled his days working at the Parsons Beacon Program for The Child Center of New York and his nights working out in the St. Robert’s gym. Finally in the beginning of September, after applying and receiving his duel Israeli/US citizenship, a call came from Matan to pack his bags. A team in the 3rd league in Northern Israel wanted him for the coming season!

At 5:30am on September 20th, I drove my only son to the Delta Airlines terminal at JFK. After a long goodbye hug and a few words of a father’s wisdom, he was off to follow that bouncing ball… 6,000 miles away from home!

Fast forward to November 20th, when my wife Roxy, daughter Brittany and her boyfriend Jerren and I arrived in Tel-Aviv to reunite with Trevor and spent a whirlwind week in Israel! After a 12-hour flight and a three-hour drive north to the mountains, we entered the ancient city of Tzfat, the birthplace of Kabbalah. There, we observed a Hapoel Tzfat practice, where a teammate had to translate Coach Poppy’s orders in Trevor’s ear so that he could execute the plays. We witnessed the weekly Sunday game where bodies and elbows were flying. In the edge-of-your-seat 2nd half, Tzfat upset its undefeated league rival from the south, leaving the loud, drum-banging hometown crowd in good spirits. Two weeks following the upset, Trevor was in the starting lineup, scoring 28 points, seven assists and seven rebounds… not bad for a unheralded kid from Flushing, Queens!

Outside of the basketball court, we found Israel to be a magical country: the Western Wall, the Bahai Gardens of Haifa, floating in the Dead Sea covered with mud, the markets of Old Jaffa and the ancient city of Nazarath. So much to see, but time came to get back to the States.

Having my family together again and watching Trevor step on a court as a professional basketball player so many miles from home was indescribable. I guess it made all of those offseason workouts, shooting drills, team practices and late nights watching ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich’s ball handling drills over and over and over again worth the time and energy. But his international athletic journey is hopefully just beginning .