“I was drawn to the game because I was so much bigger than everyone else,” McRae acknowledged. His dad, Peter, played rugby, far and away the most popular sport in the country, where the All Blacks reign supreme.
Elkaz, a 6-foot-5-inch guard from Sydney suburb Green Valley, shot 43% from three-point range last season. He started playing basketball around age 6. But his first exposure came almost by accident as his dad practiced tennis with his older brother on a netball court — a game similar to basketball but with no backboards.
To pass the time, the young Elkaz picked up a ball and started shooting.
“It kept going in — swish, swish,” he recalled. “I’m like, ‘Hey, dad, what sport is this?’”
Before their official introduction at UCR, McRae and Elkaz competed against one another as members of their respective youth national teams in the Under-16 Oceania tournament. McRae’s New Zealand managed to beat Australia in the early rounds, but narrowly lost to Elkaz’ Aussies in the final.
A few years later, McRae got his revenge against Australia in the Under-19 Oceania final, although Elkaz wasn’t on the team.
“That was amazing,” McRae said. “They’re always expected to win.”
These days, the student-athletes are working toward the same goal, both on and off the court.
“We’re planning on taking the same classes,” Elkaz said, laughing. “We’ll probably do the same major.”