Aulcie Perry is a tall man -- and a man who stands tall in Israel. At 6-foot-11, the former professional basketball center would stand out in a crowd anywhere in the world. In Israel, Perry draws crowds of fans, especially youngsters.
"I've been here a long time," said Perry, an African American born in Newark, N.J. "Israel has been good to me."
Perry has been good to Israel as well.
After a successful career with the country's top basketball team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Perry, 54, opened summer basketball clinics for children 7 to 14 years old in Tel Aviv. And he's about to open another one -- a camp set up to attract teens from all over the world, especially observant Jews.
This focus on teaching basketball in an Israeli and Jewish context began eight years ago, when Perry and Greg Cornelius, an American hoopster from East Carolina University who played professionally in Israel, developed plans for a summer camp. The result was the Basketball for Stars summer camp at the Wingate Sports Institute near Netanya.
"It is a very, very high-quality affair," Perry said. "I bring the best coaches, and also coaches who are Israeli and were star players here in Israel. I also bring in the top players from Maccabi to come in and talk to the kids."
Maccabi, Perry's old team, just won the European championship for the second year in a row. And Perry was a key figure in Maccabi's original rise to basketball prominence. Perry appreciates his old team's consistent dominance, but he's personally focused on the next generation.
Perry's new venture, open to children from all over the world, will feature Jewish sports heroes, such as Tal Brody and Tamir Goodman, Perry in a three-week sports camp called Sal Stars (Hoop Stars in English).
Perry came to Israel in 1976. He was a player rejected by the NBA who was trying to improve his skills on a summer league team. In Israel, he impressed representatives from Maccabi Tel Aviv.
"I came to Europe to work on my game, and then go back and try again with the NBA," Perry said. "Maccabi came to me. I signed up for two months. We won the European Cup. Things never looked the same again. Maccabi has been the top team since."
Brody, from Trenton, N.J., was a college All-American in the 1960s, and was picked in the NBA draft. However, he chose to go to Israel.
"Tal Brody is 'Mr. Basketball' in Israel," said Perry, who played with him on the Maccabi Tel Aviv team that won the European championship in 1977, Perry's first year in Israeli basketball.
The win put Maccabi "on the map to stay," Brody once said.
During his career, Perry led Maccabi to victory in the 1981 European Cup, the 1980 Intercontinental Cup, nine league championships and eight National Cups.
"It's going to be something special," Perry said of Sal Stars, explaining that it will teach not only basketball but tennis and soccer, too.
The program is open to Jewish youngsters from around the world, although it's aimed at Torah-observant Jewish teens. It will be based in Givat Washington, a religious sports university near Ashdod. Givat Washington has world-renowned sports facilities and some of Israel's best athletic trainers.
According to Perry, "the three-week camp will give them the highest quality of coaching and training in sports, as well as give the Israeli experience."
"They'll travel. They'll see the country, the historic sites. It's going to be something special," he said.
The clinic will run from July 7 to July 28.
In March, Perry, who also is a sports agent, looked for potential players for international leagues. He scouted young talent from black colleges during the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Basketball Tournament in North Carolina.
While Perry was with Maccabi, he would bring traffic to a halt as fans jockeyed for a view of a man who then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin said helped bring "honor to the people of Israel."
Perry played high school ball at West Side High in Newark and college ball for Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fla. In 1975, he had a short stint with the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association.
But it was in Israel that Perry found his game and his home, he said. Today, Perry, who is unmarried and has a son, observes Jewish holidays, but said in an e-mail that he "doesn't like to classify" himself religiously.
"In Israel, they are more concerned about what you can do than what color your skin is," he said. "You'll have the opportunity if you're capable and have something to offer."
For more information about Aulcie Perry's summer camps, visit www.hoopsisrael.com.