Israeli-Born Garzon Shines for IU Hoops Team
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Israeli-Born Garzon Shines for IU Hoops Team

The Ra’anana native has been a standout performer for the Indiana University women’s basketball team.

Only a freshman, Yarden Garzon has already established herself as one of the top perimeter shooters in the Big Ten this season // Photos Courtesy of Indiana University Athletics
Only a freshman, Yarden Garzon has already established herself as one of the top perimeter shooters in the Big Ten this season // Photos Courtesy of Indiana University Athletics

Ra’anana, Israel, and Bloomington, Ind., both have a population that hovers around 80,000 but otherwise share very little in common. One’s a verdant, bustling city just north of Tel Aviv while the other’s nestled in the rolling hills of southern Indiana, primarily functioning as the home of Indiana University’s flagship campus. Further, with the two cities having vastly different demographic characteristics and cultural vibes, transitioning from one locale to the other makes for a drastic lifestyle change.

But whatever cultural shock Indiana freshman guard Yarden Garzon may have experienced in making said transition surely hasn’t carried over to the basketball court, where she’s been a season-long starter for a Hoosiers team that’s in the running for the Division I women’s basketball national championship. Playing more than 6,000 miles away from her native land, the 6’3” Israeli shooting guard has scored in double figures night in and night out this winter, establishing herself as one of the top players (not just freshmen) in the Big Ten and one of the deadliest three-point shooters in the entire country.

Certainly, the comfort zone of the gym has served as a sanctuary while she’s been navigating the new cultural landscape of America’s heartland.

“I think everything is really different than home,” acknowledged Garzon, whose older sister, Lior, is a junior forward for Oklahoma State University. “I think it’s really different because I’m living in a city in Israel. Bloomington is a small college town. The culture is really different than in Israel. Israel is smaller. It’s a lot to adjust to.”

Back home, most vibrant urban centers are within a one-hour drive; in Bloomington, the nearest major city, Indianapolis, is a solid 75-minute ride away. But such geographical and cultural disparities haven’t dimmed her love for the basketball-crazed college town that’s home to two teams with designs on capturing a national title this spring. As of press time, the Lady Hoosiers sported a 26-1 record and No.2 national ranking while the men have been in the AP Top 25 for much of the winter.

“I like Bloomington. I love the people here,” Garzon was quick to point out in her conversation with the Atlanta Jewish Times. “The fans are incredible. I didn’t even imagine how good the fans are.”

Showing great maturity both on and off the court, Israel’s Yarden Garzon appears poised to continue her phenomenal freshman season during the upcoming March Madness.

During last year’s recruiting trip, Garzon attended a game at Indiana’s Assembly Hall. Kentucky was in town and there were more than 7,000 fans in attendance at the renowned facility. That, in itself, was impressive, but this year, with the Hoosiers consistently atop the national rankings, it has become customary for fans to not only occupy most of the arena but for many to line up hours before tip-off in anticipation of the night’s action. Perhaps the capstone moment of the season occurred on Feb. 19 when the Hoosiers knocked off Purdue, 83-60, to clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title for the first time since 1983 in front of a program-first, sold-out Assembly Hall.

“It [the support of the home crowds] has definitely surprised me,” reiterated Garzon. “I can’t even describe how helpful it is. It’s more than anything I expected.”

She heaps similarly effusive praise on Indiana’s coaching staff, one spearheaded by revered head coach Teri Moren.

“We have a really good staff. We feel ready before every game,” Garzon noted when asked how the Hoosiers have gone undefeated against AP Top 25 teams this winter. “We know what we want to accomplish every game. I think our preparation is the best it can be.”

For Garzon, the support from Indiana’s rabid fan base and dedicated coaching staff has provided tremendous motivation, but it hasn’t filled the void left by no longer being immersed in Judaic culture, on a daily basis, like she was back home in Israel. To that end, Garzon has taken the initiative to be an engaged member of the school’s Chabad and has since become a regular for Friday night Shabbat dinners—when she’s not hitting the road for games across the Midwest, that is.

“I feel like they understand me a little bit more in terms of what it’s like being an Israeli here,” she added. “It’s made me feel a little bit better about it and not alone here. It’s made it a little bit easier for me.”

With February coming to a close, Garzon is about to get her first taste of March Madness and all the accompanying hoopla, including playing in front of millions on national television. While she’s no stranger to competing on the big stage, having played at the 2021 U20 European Challengers and EuroBasket 2023 qualifiers, what lies ahead in the coming weeks is of a far greater magnitude.

“I want to see how it feels, the first time I play in March Madness,” said Indiana’s prized rookie. “I really want to see how it feels to be in it.”

With the Hoosiers a shoo-in for a spot in this year’s tourney, she will find out soon enough.

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