Hapoel Tel Aviv will play Bakken Bears in Champions League Basketball group stage qualification action in Cyprus on Wednesday at 16:30. Should the Reds defeat the Denmark based club, Ioannis Katritis’s squad will then play the winner of the second semifinal Anwil Wloclawek/Belfius Mons-Hainaut for a ticket to the 2020/21 competition.
The Bears have a veteran laden team which includes one time Hapoel Tel Aviv swingman DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell who begins his second stint with the club after having featured in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets and with the Oklahoma City Blue of the G-League.
The Sports Rabbi interviewed Akoon-Purcell just before the start of the mini-Final Four which will take place at Nicosia’s Eleftheria Hall and shared his insights about his time at Hapoel Tel Aviv, the Nuggets success in the NBA playoffs and of course his current club Bakken Bears.
Akoon-Purcell had much success in his first time with the Bears between 2016-2018 as he helped the club win back-to-back Basketligaen championships in 2017 and 2018 while also taking home the league’s scoring title, Most Valuable Player award and Finals MVP in 2017 right after finishing college. What was the secret of his early success? “The secret to my success in Bakken was having dreams of playing at the highest level (NBA).”
After the 2018 season, the Orlando, Florida native made stops in the NBA, G-League, Israel and the French League before returning to the Danish squad as he didn’t hide his excitement to be back with the Bears, “I am extremely happy to be back in Bakken. At some point I was going to come back and visit my Denmark family anyway. But playing in the CL qualifications just makes my visit 10x better.”
“For me Bakken is special in many ways. They took a chance on me out of college, and gave me the opportunity to showcase my full talent. We had a lot of success with my time being here and even after I left. Bakken’s a very professional club. This is my home away from home. I love it here.”
Bakken Bears have taken part in European competitions since the 2013/14 campaign and will look to do the same this year under coach Steffen Wich. Therefore qualifying for the group stage is of the utmost importance explained Akoon-Purcell who also added what he feels will be the keys to moving on, “For our team to win the mini-tournament we must play winning basketball. Play defense, communicate, play together on both ends, & have fun. All I will say about advancing in the CL group stages is #Mandatory.”
Akoon-Purcell had the opportunity to play for the Denver Nuggets at the start of the 2018/19 season and saw up close how crucial the team’s two stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are to the club.
“Playing for Denver was a great experience for me. I learned a lot from my teammates, coaches, family/friends and even fans that will help me throughout the remainder of my career. I’m not surprised one bit about Denver’s success. Jokic & Murray are two players that taught me a lot while being in Denver. I will believe in them.”
The Illinois State product arrived at Hapoel Tel Aviv in December of 2018 and played for the Reds until February 2019 in what seemed to have been a very short stop after appearing in only 8 games but as Akoon-Purcell says it just wasn’t the right fit, “My time in Hapoel was wasn’t as bad as people may think it was looking from the outside. I enjoyed my time there. It just wasn’t the right situation for me personally.”
Last season, Akoon-Purcell put up magnificent numbers in the G-League scoring 17.7 points and pulling down 6.6 rebounds in 27 minutes per game, showing that he certainly has the quality to play in the world’s greatest league. As for when he will get back to the top of the mountain, he was as confident as confident can be, “I will be an NBA player in the near future. #Mandatory”