Texoma native, professional Israeli basketball player talks about flaring tensions in the region

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 10:50 PM CDT
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HOLON, Isreal(KXII) - Half a world away, Stringtown native Tryus McGee is playing professional basketball for the Hapoel Holon Basketball Club in Holon, Isreal. Living out his dream of playing professional basketball while caught in the crossfire of some of the worse violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We had practice and our manager of the team told us at 9 o’clock there’s supposed to be bombings in Tel-Aviv here in Israel,” McGee said. “As Americans we’re like ‘bombing?’ that’s not something we hear in everyday life in America.”

More than 400 rockets were fired deep into Israel from the Palestinian-controlled Gaza City Tuesday. Some hitting homes in Israeli cities. At least three people were killed after Palestinian militants fired 130 missiles at Tel Aviv after an Israeli airstrike a tower on the Gaza Strip.

The fighting comes after weeks of violent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at a holy site to both Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem.

“I went outside here, outside my door and I can see the actual missiles that are protecting us that’s shooting the rockets out of the sky,” McGee said. “Being from Oklahoma, I’m used to hearing tornado sirens as a kid growing up and these sirens, that’s what it reminded me of.”

McGee has been playing professional basketball overseas for eight years, and Tuesday was his first time hearing air raid sirens ring throughout the city.

“Whatever was hitting the ground were pieces of the rocket that had exploded in the air,” McGee said.

McGee hid with his fiance and his teammate in the safe room in his apartment for 30 minutes as the violence went on Tuesday. But even through the soundproof concrete walls he could feel the vibrations as explosions shook the roof of his building.

“People here in Israel have reached out to us saying ‘this is normal for us, we know it’s not normal for you’,” McGee said. “They said it had been quite a few years since we had something like this happen, and it happened so fast and they always said you need to stay in your apartment.”

He said locals have taught him seek cover as fast as possible, and in a small area.

On the court, McGee and Hapoel Holon have five more games left until playoffs and are ranked third in the league. The team has played in three different leagues this year and won one.

In all, McGee has won three championships in his eight years of playing professionally in Europe.

“If this would have happened last year with me coming in this year I would have been like ‘maybe I don’t want to get myself in this situation, maybe I should just stay in Europe where I’ve been where everything is calm and collective’,” McGee said.

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