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29 May 2013

AAU Basketball Helps Hoop Dreams Come True

AAU Basketball Helps Hoop Dreams Come True

Originally posted on TheIslandNow.com by Bill San Antonio 

Though Great Neck Plaza resident Ayal Hod and former New York Knicks star Allan Houston’s 11-year-old sons each now play for the same AAU basketball team, the dads have actually dreamed of their boys taking the floor as teammates since they were babies. 

Hod and Houston became friends while Hod worked with Bloomingdale's, when a group comprised of Houston's wife Tamara, former Knicks point guard Charlie Ward's wife Tonja and Basketball Hall of Famer Alex English approached Hod about a business venture based on his experience with basketball and the fragrance industry. 

“Allan is like my son’s godfather,” said Hod, 46. “He’s watched over Dillon since he was born. He comes to Great Neck a lot. We’ve been planning on having them play together ever since they were born.” 

Though Houston went on to a position in the Knicks’ front office, regularly jetting from city to city as the franchise’s assistant general manager, the longtime friends made good on that promise a few weeks ago. 

 Early in the morning on May 3, Ayal and Dillon pulled up to the door of Houston’s Greenwich, Conn. home to pick up Allan Jr. for a tournament with their LP Fams AAU basketball team later that afternoon in Brewster, N.Y. 

Hod said Allan Jr. answered the door and told them his father was still alseep, having taken a late-night flight from Boston after the Knicks eliminated the Boston Celtics in the opening round of the NBA playoffs. 

“I told Allan to wake his father up and have him get in the car,” Hod said. “He was going to be our assistant coach for the day.” 

Sleepy-eyed and dressed in a T-shirt, sweatpants and sneakers, Houston posed for pictures with the team after the tournament, and Hod said the former guard’s presence helped the boys play excel on the court. 

“It’s good they’re able to play together and are starting to get to that age now where Dillon and Allan Jr. are really having fun out there,” Hod said. 

Efforts to reach Houston through the Knicks’ media relations department were unavailing. 

Hod was once a standout at Yeshiva University, briefly holding the program’s all-time scoring record and earning spots on competitive summer league squads and endorsement deals with the likes of Bob Knight and Wilt Chamberlain. 

Removed from the game as a player by 1996, when Houston signed with the Knicks, Hod maintained his basketball friendships and was approached by English, Tamara Houston and Tonja Ward to help create a fragrance for NBA star Penny Hardaway that could compete with Michael Jordan's cologne. 

“We worked for six months on that, the fragrance and the packaging and the marketing, and you know what happened? Penny got hurt and the deal was off,” Hod said. 

In the years that followed, the two remained friends, even collaborating as part of Hod’s Top Gun leather business, and Hod said Houston’s been instrumental in passing along his love of basketball to Dillon, who also plays for St. Aloysius’ CYO team as well as the Top Gun AAU program and in the West Hempstead-based Island Garden program. 

“Allan’s made him a ball boy for the Knicks before,” Hod said. “But the funny thing is, he doesn’t like the Knicks, he likes the Nets. So when they play the Nets, he’ll be sitting on the Knicks bench rooting for the Nets.” 

Maybe one day, their dads will watch them take the floor at Madison Square Garden, too. 

“We envisioned this moment 10 years ago when the boys were just one,” Hod said. “Maybe in 10 years, they’ll be the back court for the New York Knicks.”

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