Lior Berman earned a scholarship for NCAA basketball—but his dream is to play in Israel

Lior Berman, a 6'4" guard from Alabama, recently was promoted from a walk-on athlete to full scholarship at Auburn University. (Photo courtesy of Lior Berman/Auburn Athletics)

At 24 years old, Lior Berman has already spent years playing NCAA Division I basketball for Auburn University in his home state of Alabama. But it was only this past summer that the walk-on athlete—and the only Jewish player on the team—got promoted to a full scholarship. The 6’4″ guard decided to stick around for a fifth year, taking a few classes after graduating with a degree in industrial design, continuing to learn the game under one of college basketball’s most outspoken Jewish coaches, Bruce Pearl.

While Berman is appreciative of being able to keep living and playing just two hours from his home city of Birmingham, he also remains laser-focused on his true goal: playing professionally in Israel. He’s visited a handful of times, having played for the Maccabi USA Open Men’s Basketball team, and even visiting once with his Auburn Tigers, where some of his Christian teammates got baptized.

Berman joins Menschwarmers to chat about his relationship with Coach Pearl, his journey so far, and what it’s been like as one of the few openly proud Jewish basketball players competing at the highest level of college sports.


Menschwarmers is hosted by James Hirsh and Gabe Pulver, and produced and edited by Michael Fraiman. Our intro music is by Coby Lipovitch, and our outro music is “Organ Grinder Swing” by chēēZ π. This show is a member of The CJN Podcast Network. Follow the Menschwarmers on Twitter @menschwarmers. Support the show by subscribing to this podcast or donating to The CJN.