A 6,000 mile journey from Ashdod, Israel to Indianapolis, Ind. to play basketball is the reality for senior and junior guards Mickey and Shira Sasson who have spent the majority of their lives playing basketball together. The two have played together on several teams, served in the Israeli military and now, after attending separate colleges their freshman year, they are players for the University of Indianapolis women’s basketball team.
Mickey and Shira were among the founding members of their school’s first-ever women’s basketball team. According to Shira, the team consisted of seven girls and in their first season, they made it to the finals of their high school league, which was broadcast on national TV.
Meanwhile, the sisters also played in the professional world by making the roster of the Israeli National Team. According to Shira, they competed with hundreds of other women from across Israel for 12 spots on the team. Shira said her favorite memory from playing on the national team was when she realized that both she and Mickey had made the team together.
“I think the happiest day of my life was when we were 13 and the pressure was on. I remember one day we finished practice and whenever they call someone aside to the conference room, you know they were letting them go,” Shira said. “I looked around for my sister, to see if she’s still around. And I said, ‘They’re not talking to me; they’re not talking to her.’ That’s all I cared about. I just wanted both of us to make it to the final 12.”
The team competed with other countries around the world. The teams were divided into Division A and Division B for the European championships, according to Mickey. She said that when the team beat the Latvia National Team and moved up from B to A, that made history for Israel because it was the first time the women’s basketball team had been able to accomplish that. She said that was one of the greatest experiences of her life.
“You feel so proud wearing the uniforms that just say Israel on the front and competing against big teams in Europe: Spain, Serbia, Montenegro, Russia-stuff like that,” Mickey said. “It’s absolutely amazing … and you get to represent your country.”
At the age of 18, the sisters served their mandatory two years of service, enlisting in the Israeli military in 2015. Mickey went into the army as a tank engineer, and Shira went into the navy for logistics.
“I didn’t have the best experience. The two years [in the military] was kind of rough. But I managed to get through that with the help of family and friends, and time management and basketball definitely helped,” Shira said. “Then when I knew I was coming here, I didn’t think twice about it. I just acted so fast. We were discharged from the military July, [and] I was here August. It was really fast, and the transition was very hard for me, harder than I would like to admit.”
After her service, Mickey played one year of basketball at the College of the Sequoias, according to Women’s Basketball Head Coach Kristin Wodrich. This caused Mickey to arrive at UIndy one year after Shira. Shira said that being separated for that year was difficult.
“It was initially kind of a disaster. We did everything together, but it’s not like we weren’t independent people. We were. But I felt like something was missing,” Shira said. “It was really weird talking to people here and making friends and having to explain who Mickey is …. I learned a lot about myself being without her and having to do my own thing.”
Since Mickey’s arrival at UIndy, the two have been playing better, because of their chemistry, Shira said. Wodrich said that their chemistry makes them stronger on the court together and that their experience overseas has helped them succeed.
“I think on the defensive [end] and they really bring a lot [to the team] and they play well together. So when they’re in there together, we’re able to pick up full court and trap and be able to do different things,” Wodrich said. “And they’re two different positions: Mickey plays point guard, and Shira can play anything from a three through five [forward through center]. Being able to be versatile and use them both in different ways has been really helpful.”