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Oceanside’s Jamie Behar competing in Maccabiah Games

Oceanside's Jamie Behar has a step on South

Oceanside's Jamie Behar has a step on South Side's Maria Karanasos during game at South Side High School on Thursday Dec. 10, 2015. Photo Credit: Richard T. Slattery

Jamie Behar isn’t your typical freshman athlete.

A 6-2 up-and-comer with guard skills for the Oceanside girls basketball team, Behar just finished her third year on varsity. Her overwhelming talent has earned her the opportunity to represent the United States at the Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv, Israel, this summer.

Behar will compete with the Maccabi USA Juniors Girls’ basketball team from July 4-18 in the 20th Maccabiah Games, an event held every four years often referred to as the “Jewish Olympics.”

“It’s one thing to play in the state, and I’ve been playing AAU for a while so I’ve traveled, but now I get to travel across the world,” said Behar, who averaged 15.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.1 blocks for the Sailors this season. “I’ve heard that it’s beautiful there, so I’m really excited to see everything and be with all these people . . . and obviously play basketball too.”

The Maccabiah Games brings athletes from across the world together to “build Jewish pride through sports, generating the emotional intensity, high ideals, and powerful camaraderie of competition,” according to a news release from Maccabi USA.

Eighty countries will send 8,750 athletes to compete in 43 sports.

Behar said she is proud to have the opportunity to represent her country and learn more about the culture in Israel.

“I think you always do want to win, but something like this, you have to realize what you’re doing it for,” she said. “It’s more for the experience, but I’m a basketball player, and I love competition.”

Behar said she gets constant support from her family, but will make the trip by herself to show that she can succeed on her own and be independent. Her mother, Lisa Behar, said that it will be “just a very exciting opportunity for her.”

Maccabi USA coach Rebecca Silberman said she was impressed with Behar from the moment she saw her play, citing her guard-like shooting and ballhandling talents.

Coaching this team for the first time, Silberman said she wanted not only athletes with talent, but youth she can build around.

“One of the things that stood out most is her raw talent,” Silberman said. “Seeing the way she handles the ball for her size is impressive.”

Behar will travel a fair amount this summer. Between her trip to Israel, for which she leaves on June 25, and her AAU schedule, Behar will be busy.

But even before that all begins, Behar said she will try out for the USA Basketball Women’s U16 national team at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs from May 25-29. The national team plays in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from June 7-11 in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

She’s optimistic that her skills will stack up favorably against some of the nation’s best. She can play all five positions on the court, and Oceanside coach Joe Supple said, “Her biggest strength is that she can shoot the ball from anywhere in the gym.”

“I never had doubts about myself,” Behar said. “I’m very confident in myself and what I can do.”

The experience gained from playing against national and international competition in the coming months will only strengthen Behar’s case as one of Long Island’s top players .

She said she has received interest from several top Division I programs, including perennial powerhouse Connecticut. Other schools include Duke, Maryland and North Carolina. Her mother said she dreams of playing in the WNBA, and with her enviable poise and self-assurance, perhaps she’ll have a shot.

“I think if I’m able to play my best, I think I can hang with anyone,” she said. “There’s so many girls who are so talented, but if I play my best, I can keep up, too.”

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