Maccabi Tel Aviv faces Armani Milano in Italy on Friday night in a crucial Euroleague contest as the Yellow & Blue sit at 10-9 heading into Gameday 20. Milano Head Coach Simone Pianigiani’s squad fell in Tel Aviv back in November 79-68 and Neven Spahija’s team will try and duplicate their success from a few months ago.
However, the team that his side will be facing has a couple of new players in Mindaugus Kuzminskas and Curtis Jerrells to go along with former Maccabi sharp shooter Andrew Goudelock, Lithuanian Arturas Gudaitis and the ever dangerous Jordan Theodore. With two wins in a row over Baskonia and Malaga, Milano seems to have turned a page in their bleak season and will look to continue their streak.
In order to get a taste of the Italian team’s season, The Sports Rabbi corresponded exclusively with Curtis Jerrells as the former Hapoel Jerusalem guard discussed his new/old surroundings, reuniting with Pianigiani and more:
The former Baylor guard played in Milan back in 2013/14 and averaged 11.3 points in Euroleague action while also capturing the Italian League Championship. Jerrells was very familiar with the Italian fashion capital, “I obviously knew this place, the people, the streets and the adjustment was easy. In Milan, I spent one of the best years of my life and the feeling was great. I wish I had never left but sometimes things happen and I had to leave after the championship. I’m just happy to be here again.”
Reuniting with coach Simone Pianigiani, with whom he took the Israeli League title last year was definitely an important factor as to why he headed to Milan this past November, “He was one of the reasons I returned, along with many others of course since Milan is like home to me. When he signed for Jerusalem he called me. I knew he was the head coach in Siena when my former Milan coach Luca Banchi was his assistant. So I knew what to expect from him. In Jerusalem, we built the right chemistry right from the beginning because of our mentality and energy. We stayed together and we won.”
After being a main fiddle for Jerusalem and one that was counted on in crunch time to take the big shots while also taking the team on his shoulders, Jerrells has seen his minutes drop for Milan especially in Euroleague play. #55 says that it’s no big deal, “No problem at all as I had some minor injuries. As soon as I signed, Goudelock went down and I had to play immediately big minutes after a three-week stop. We have a lot of talented players, a lot of games and sharing minutes is a necessity. I’m all for it.”
The aforementioned Goudelock aka “Mini Mamba” spent last season in Israel facing off against Jerrells with Maccabi Tel Aviv and now they are playing together for Pianigiani. Will that cause any issues for the pair of shooters? “Coach Pianigiani is great at mixing and using talent. Andrew is a terrific scorer and shooter. Playing with him is easy. Playing against him is tough.”
With two wins in a row, Jerrells knows that Milano wants to keep up the positive momentum, “I think we are moving in the right direction. The energy, the defense, the execution is better, we just need to keep improving.”
One of the keys to their recent success is the addition of former New York Knicks and Lithuanian forward Mindaugus Kuzminskas. He brings a new dimension to Milano Jerrells explained, “He’s a great addition, offensively he provides us with some spacing, his size is important and so his experience.”
Jerrells enjoyed playing against Maccabi just last year for Hapoel Jerusalem and before we bid adieu, he had a message for the Capital City fans, “I miss the city, the fans and I enjoyed my time in Jerusalem. Winning the championship was great, I had probably the best season of my life but sometimes you have to move on. Jerusalem still has a soft spot in my heart. I wish everybody there the best. I’m happy in Milan right now”