By Madisen Carter
Former Unlimited Potential Basketball player development trainer and Oberlin College alumnus, Josh Friedkin, is currently taking on his first year playing professional basketball overseas. He has been in Israel since July of 2021 playing for Maccabi Ashdod.
Friedkin has been playing the game of basketball since he was just four years old, starting at his local YMCA. He played multiple sports growing up including baseball, football and soccer, but decided in high school that he was going to focus on playing basketball. Friedkin said that when it came down to picking a sport he would dedicate his time to, he could not give up basketball because he loved the game that much.
Playing basketball professionally was always something Friedkin had his mind set on and has always wanted to go as far as the game could take him. He played Varsity for three years at Albany High School and when it was time to pick a college to attend, he decided to play at Oberlin College and continue his basketball career at the Division III level. He graduated from Oberlin college in 2020, and he then became a player development coach at UPB.
With his experiences from playing college basketball and being a player development coach, Friedkin said he learned so many things that helped prepare him for a career overseas. From Oberlin College he learned how to be a leader through turbulence and learned how to approach different people in different ways. Through UPB, he was able to learn many different approaches to the game and the different aspects of basketball.
“You start to decentralize yourself, you know, and you start looking at it from the perspective of others. I really think I learned a lot just about the game of basketball, from being able to work with all these kids,” Friedkin said. “You know, as much as I taught them, they also taught me, so I love that.”
Before Friedkin arrived in Israel, he received dual citizenship, and has now been studying the language to help him communicate with others in the country. He said the transition he has gone through while being overseas has been a learning experience. Although there are many factors that are different culturally in Israel, there are also many different factors on the basketball court.
“On the court, especially coming from the Division III level, just the size and the length of the guys is completely different. I have to use a lot of critical thinking in my decisions because if you make any mistake, you don't have any degree for error, there's no margin. If you make a mistake, they're going to capitalize on it,” Friedkin said. “So just from that perspective, I have become a much smarter basketball player… [There is a] different style of game, [it is] way more physical out here, but at the end of the day basketball is basketball.”
Friedkin has built strong relationships with his teammates so far. He said they have great locker room conversations, they go out to eat together, and since they live on the coast, on warmer days they will go to the beach and hang out together.
Not only does Friedkin have a good relationship with his teammates but also his head coach Naomi Kolodny. Kolodny is the first female head coach of a men's team in the Leumit League, and she has been helping Friedkin adjust to the game.
“As a point guard, your responsibility is really to manage the floor and to make sure everybody's in the right spots and doing the right things, and she's really helped me manage that,” Friedkin said. “It's different [because] in college, you're doing that with guys who are a year or two older than you. When I first got into college, I was 18 and the oldest guys were 22. Now I'm 23, and the oldest guys are 32-33 years old that have a family and kids, but it's my job to make sure that I hold them accountable and make sure they're doing what they're supposed to do. So just little things like that, she's been great with. I have a really good relationship with her too.”
Maccabi Ashdod is currently 5-13 with eight games left in the season. Friedkin said as a team, the main goal for the remainder of the season is make it into the top eight rankings so the team can make it to the playoffs. Not only does he want the team to be successful statistically, but he also wants the team to continue to build every day and to become more comfortable with each other while learning how to play with one another. Personally, his biggest goal is to be a contribution to the team's success.
“For me, that's just finding ways that I can slot in and contribute to our team winning games, you know. Whether that means scoring, whether that means passing, whether that means just making sure people are in the right spots, playing defense, whatever that takes, I'm willing to do it,” Friedkin said.
When asked what kind of advice Friedkin would give to basketball players who are striving to play overseas, he said that you are there to play a role on the team and to help them be successful, not to necessarily put up 20 shots each game. He said that there are so many other responsibilities and ways to play a significant part on a team.
“When you get to this level, there's almost always somebody on the floor who can put the ball in the basket at a more efficient rate than you can, you know. Then it's ‘okay, let's make that his job because that's what he's really good at,’” Freidkin said. “[Then,] let me find what I'm really good at and let me do that. Then when you have five guys on the court and everybody's doing what they do best, that's when a team becomes really scary, you know, and they become a really good team.”
Maccabi Ashdod’s next game is on Sunday when the team travels to play Ironi Nahariya. With a little over a quarter of the season left for Maccabi Ashdod, Friedkin and his team will continue practicing and working hard in hopes to reach their season goals and to keep improving. For himself, Friedkin will continue to perfect his craft and develop his skills more in the game he has loved since he was a child.
“Basketball for me has always been that kind of safe space… Whatever is going on outside, as soon as you get into that gym it all goes away. It all melts away and I love that. I think as humans we are naturally emotional people and being able to have a productive way to release those emotions and to deal with them is just so important,” Friedkin said. “It created a situation where now [when I go] to work out to play basketball, not only does it help improve my skills, which it does, it’s helping me in so many other ways too, and it no longer becomes work.”