Max Heidegger, whose stellar basketball career at UCSB was interrupted by a series of injuries, will begin playing again soon in one of the world’s top professional leagues.
The 6-foot-3 guard has signed a multi-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, an Israeli Premier League power which is set to open the EuroLeague season against Alba Berlin on Oct. 1.
“This is one of the best situations in the world,” said Heidegger, who boarded a flight to Israel on Monday afternoon. “Other than the NBA, this is the highest level you can play at, and Maccabi Tel Aviv has a great and amazing tradition.
“It is kind of a feeling of relief for me, with all that’s happened with COVID and my injuries. This is a great opportunity.”
Heidegger, who ranks 15th on UCSB’s all-time scoring list with 1,347 points, is only the seventh Gaucho in history to make the All-Big West Conference first team more than once. He was a first-team pick as a sophomore in 2018 when he averaged 19.1 points per game — 10th-highest all-time at UCSB — while breaking a 31-year-old school record with 95 three-pointers.
His junior season was limited by a knee injury and two concussions, and he suffered another concussion early last season. He returned in time for Big West play, however, and averaged 16.0 points to earn all-league, first-team honors for the second time.
Heidegger’s last game as a Gaucho came when he sprained his ankle at UC Riverside on Feb. 27. Two weeks later, the NCAA halted the college basketball season because of the coronavirus pandemic. He graduated in June with a degree in sociology and has been living in Malibu with his parents, Klaus and Jami, for the last three months.
“I’ve been coming up here to work out with a couple of the guys like Amadou (Sow) and Ajare (Sanni), although their team has kind of gone into its own bubble now,” he said. “I do feel great — my ankle feels great, my body is great, and I feel great mentally, too.
“I’m just excited to get going again, honestly.”
He is unsure about the status of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s season, however.
“They’ve been practicing already and I’ll be arriving a little late to the party, but they’ve also been on a nationwide lockdown for the last three weeks,” Heidegger said. “I’m not sure how that’s going to affect our season.
“I’ll know more once I get there.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s roster includes six-time NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire, who’s in the midst of his own contract negotiations with the club, and Tyler Dorsey, who played two seasons in the NBA after leading Oregon to the NCAA Final Four.
“I know Tyler personally — I played with him a lot when I was younger, although I haven’t talked to him in a long time,” Heidegger pointed out. “They do have a solid number of Americans on the team.”
He said he still has dreams of playing in the NBA but feels fortunate to have gotten his current contract.
“The NBA would be my ultimate goal, but I’ve got to conquer the things at hand,” Heidegger said. “They have some great players at Maccabi Tel Aviv and I’m going to have to fight for my spot and playing time.”