The Israel Basketball Preseason is underway as the teams across the league begin to see what they’ve got both on and off of the court before the 2019/20 campaign gets underway. The Sports Rabbi caught up with a few players and coaches to see how their preparations for the new season have been to date.
Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Beer Sheva 89-77. Anthony Lawrence had a huge game for the Southern City Reds with 22 points while James Feldeine looked to be in mid season form for Jerusalem and scored 19 points in the win. One of the new players for Oded Katash’s squad is Suleiman Braimoh who played last season with Hapoel Eilat. The big man looks to be bringing some serious toughness to the court which is something Jerusalem was in desperate need for last year. Idan Zalmanson also gave Katash another option in the paint as the Israeli center can hit his jumper from inside the key, something that was also nowhere to be found in 2018/19. Isaiah Cousins will be one to watch as he transitions from the United States to European ball while Mindaugas Kupsas brings yet another element to Katash’s team with his frame that can also clog up the paint and alter their opponent’s offense.
I asked Braimoh a couple of questions about getting back to work and his tough guy approach, “It feels good to put on the red jersey and to go out and compete. It feels good to get better today after having a week and a half of practice and to go out and play against some other guys and see how far we’ve come. We have a lot of work to do and I’m looking forward to getting better.”
Looking out for his teammates:
“I was brought here for a reason, so I try to go out there and play my game and have my teammates back. I’ve always been a team guy and I don’t like when my teammates get the short end of the stick when it comes to our opponents. That’s what I’m here for, to help my teammates out and they help me too. It’s a give and take.”
I also asked Oded Katash about what he sees in Cousins so far, “He hasn’t really played outside of the United States and he is practicing really hard, more than anyone that I can remember. He really wants to do well, and he was excited to play his first game. As time goes on he will fit in and feel more comfortable and when he does we will see his qualities.”
A Daequan Cook triple handed Nes Ziona a 85-84 win over Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion in a fun game in front of close to 1000 in Nes Ziona. Cook led the way with 23 points (15 in the final frame) and Jeremy Hollowell notched 18 points in the win. Alex Hamilton dropped 22 points for Guy Goodes’s visiting side. Nes Ziona’s Coach Nadav Zilberstein spoke about what he’s seen so far from his roster, “I’m very happy with the squad, the depth and they are very intelligent. It’s a good mix of veterans and younger players who want to prove themselves so on any given day one of them will be able to take the team on their back. The depth gives us the option to play various styles but right now we want to have the best preseason we can possibly have and get to know each other.”
Jeremy Hollowell also talked about his Israel debut and having the chance to play on the same team as fellow Ohio native Daequan Cook, “It felt good to get out there and get things started, feeling comfortable, getting used to the ball and getting used to the rims. I’m happy to be out there. We have a god group and I group and I grew up watching Daequan as we’re both from Ohio and he played for Ohio State. I played with him on NBA 2K so it’s pretty cool to be out here playing with him.”
One of the players who clocked in major minutes was 17-year old Noam Dovrat who didn’t look out of his element whatsoever on the court with Rishon. His coach Guy Goodes spoke to me about where he sees the youngsters role this season, “I gave him a lot of minutes but he still has to improve in many parameters. This is the time to get him involved on the court with the rest of the team and for him to know his teammates. We have a deep squad and we will be playing in the EuroCup which is a very high level and we will need everyone to be able to play. He needs to get his minutes in order to gain his experience because everyone will need to play in Europe and also that the players don’t burnout.”
Other preseason action included:
Hapoel Beer Sheva 66-63 Hapoel Gilboa/Galil – TJ Williams 24p, Steve Zack 11p/11r for HBS. Yiftach Ziv 20p, Justin Tillman 12p for HGG.
Hapoel Holon 82-72 Maccabi Haifa – Malachai Richardson 18p, Marcus Foster 15p for HOL. Scott Suggs 16p, Roman Sorkin 14p for MH.
Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion 84-70 Nes Ziona – Johnathan Williams + Jordan Swing 18p each for MRL. Raviv Limonad 20p, Corey Fisher 12p for NZ.
5/9 – Hapoel Gilboa/Galil v Hapoel Tel Aviv
6/9 – Hapoel Beer Sheva v Hapoel Eilat
7/9 – Arka Gdynia v Maccabi Tel Aviv
8/9 – Anwil Wloclawek v Maccabi Tel Aviv
8/9 – Hapoel Gilboa/Galil v Hapoel Holon
8/9 – Hapoel Jerusalem v Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion
10/9 – Hapoel Tel Aviv v Maccabi Haifa
10/9 – Sassari v Hapoel Jerusalem
11/9 – Strasbourg v Maccabi Tel Aviv
12/9 – Cholet v Maccabi Tel Aviv
12/9 – Hapoel Beer Sheva v Hapoel Holon
12/9 – Hapoel Eilat v Nahariya
12/9 – Hapoel Gilboa/Galil v Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion