UMaine Basketball Player Returning To Israel To Serve In Military 

Sports for many is an escape from real life. A recreation, a hobby, or a source of entertainment.But reality has hit home for the UMaine Women’s Basketball team.As the spring semester started Monday at UMaine, one student was not getting ready to go to class. She was getting ready to go home.Michal Assaf is a freshman guard for the Black Bears. She came to Orono from Israel. “If you’re 18 and you’re done with high school, then you serve the military, and I’m done with high school and I’m 18. I turned 18 on Halloween so I get to serve the military.”She knew it was coming. Both her parents and her two older siblings served in the Israeli military.”My Dad was a fighter, he fought in 2, 3 wars,” said Assaf. “He got injured in one of them and that’s what makes me feel I must serve the military. I’m very proud of being an Israeli and I really, really want to serve in the military and I have a lot of pride in that.”During high school kids are tested to find out what they would be best suited for in the Isreali military, and while Assaf doesn’t know exactly what she’ll be doing, she knows what she won’t be doing. “I’m not gonna fight, I won’t have a gun, I’m not going to shoot people but I’m just gonna fit in the whole system and try to help whenever I can.”For the last 15 months, she and her family tried to get a deferment so she could finish out the season with the Black Bears, or possibly even delay her service until after her four years at Maine were complete. But that didn’t happen. She has to report March 3rd. At least for the last five months, she accomplished one of her goals”She’s created life long friendships, she’s playing Division One basketball which has been a dream of hers, and then all of a sudden to have that taken away,” said UMaine Assistant Coach Amy Vachon. “On the other hand she’s going home, she’s serving her country which she’s very, very proud of, and we’re proud of her as well.””I’m nervous,” said Assaf, “because it’s another big change and I’ve dealt with so many changes in the past year and nervous because it’s something new and I don’t know how it’s like.”She’s leaving now so maybe at the end of her two year service she can return to the team and still have three and a half years of NCAA eligibility, but it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to her teammates. “If I were them I don’t know if this is the way I would react to this kind of situation, and I find this amazing how they’ve been so supportive and caring and loving and just, I’m going to miss them a lot.”