Former Mizzou Star Reflects on Time in Israel

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COLUMBIA - Former Mizzou basketball star Laurence Bowers spent the last 10 months playing professional basketball in Israel for the Hapoel Holon Tigers. For Bowers, it was quite the journey from Columbia, but he said Israel isn't as different as people think.

"It's amazing man. I seriously think it could be the 51st state of America," Bowers said. "The weather is very identical to Miami."

But Bowers said Israel can also be very dangerous. At first, this was a bit alarming for him. 

"Everybody over there, they hear threats and stuff like that and missiles and sirens and all that stuff," Bowers said. "[Israelis] hear that all the time and being an outsider, I wasn't used to that."

Bowers said Israelis are used to the fighting, so it never really worries them. 

"That kind of helped tone down the atmosphere for me," Bowers said. "As the time went on, I got used to everything, and it turned out to be the best 10 month experience I've ever had."

Bowers said locals can easily spot American players in Israel. 

"Whenever I go out anywhere, I'm tall, they know I'm American, so they kind of gravitate to us a little bit," Bowers said.

Americans aren't the only ones playing basketball in the Holy Land. Bowers said Israel takes basketball very seriously. His team competes in a league with the top 12 basketball clubs in Israel. Bowers recently won the league's 2014 rookie of the year award. 

"I think it's just a testament to the work I put in," Bowers said. "Things didn't go quite my way as far as the NBA draft, and I didn't let that get me down."

He said this award lines up as one of the greatest achievements in his basketball career.

Bowers is now back in Columbia this summer giving one-on-one basketball lessons to kids ages four to 18.

"I feel like there is no better way to show my appreciation than to actually work out these kids," Bowers said.

Next month, Bowers said he will make a decision on where he will play basketball next year.

"I'm going to continue to play the game of basketball whether that's in the NBA or that's in Europe, or whether that's in the D-League," Bowers said. "I love the game, so I just want to continue to play until I can't anymore."

Bowers, now 24-years-old, said his ultimate goal is to end up in the NBA.