Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion welcome Andorra for a EuroCup Round 4 matchup at Beit Maccabi on Tuesday night at 19:30. After last week’s win over Monaco, Guy Goodes’s Rishon will look to move to .500 and put his squad into one of the Round of 16 positions against the ACB team as both sides sport 1-2 records. However, playing a Spanish team is never an easy task as they play in one of top leagues in the world.
Veteran point guard Clevin Hannah has played across Europe from his first pro season in Romania to France, Lithuania and Spain, the Wichita State product has seen it all. So far this campaign Hannah is averaging 9.3 points and 5.3 assists which is close to his career averages.
The Sports Rabbi had a chance to catch up with Hannah to talk about his time in Spain, his favorite NBA player, his experience at Wichita State, what the Toronto Raptors Championship and guard Fred VanVleet means to him, and having the opportunity to defeat Maccabi Tel Aviv with Gran Canaria in a game that was coach Neven Spahija’s last with the Yellow & Blue.
“So far it’s been great here in Andorra. We’re an up and coming team and have been getting better, but we’ve had some ups and downs and we have to learn how to win on the road which is tough,” explained Hannah as his side has fallen twice to Monaco and Bologna away from the friendly confines of the Poliesportiu d’Andorra.
Having played for four ACB teams prior to signing a 3 year, 2 + 1 contract with Andorra, Hannah arrived at his latest home thanks to the relationship with his coach Ibon Navarro who guided him during the 2017/18 season, “I’m familiar with coach Navarro as he was with my coach when I was at Murcia.”
Playing professional basketball wasn’t on Hannah’s radar at an early age, “I didn’t think I was going to be a pro and it seemed so far, far away.” But as time went by the Rochester, New York born guard played high school ball in Mississippi and then followed that up with two years at a Junior and a State College before spending his last two years of eligibility at Wichita State.
“Michael Jordan was a player I admired growing up, but my all time favorite was The Answer, Allen Iverson. I loved the way he played the game with his heart. Even though he was just about 6 ft tall he always competed at the highest level and he never showed fear. That gave me the spark that made me believe I could do the same,” said the 5”10 Hannah.
When Hannah transferred to Wichita State in 2008, he was part of new coach Gregg Marshall’s first recruiting class after coming on board a year earlier. Together, the University began its upward trend both on and off of the court to become a regular fixture in the NCAA Tournament.
“Coach Marshall was of course influential and he was one of the best coaches that I have ever had. He taught me how to be a point guard and how to run a team. One of the great things about Wichita is that we always had great fan support and always had over 10,000 fans in the stands no matter who we were playing.”
“It gives me a lot of pride that I was part of the start of Marshall’s career and we helped set things up to where they are today. I saw a lot of players who have had great careers coming in for recruiting visits. I still talk to those guys and I am happy to see where they took there careers.”
Among the players who are part of the Wichita State brotherhood Ron Baker who is with CSKA Moscow, Landry Shamet of the Los Angeles Clippers as well as Toronto Raptors guard and NBA Champion Fred VanVleet, “That’s my little brother. When Fred won the NBA Championship it was as if I also won the title with the Toronto Raptors.”
Today, Hannah still has a home right by the campus while also meeting someone very special at the university, “It’s great to go back and spend time there. It was amazing at Wichita State and I still live there now. When I go back home I still get great love. That’s where I grew up and learned more about myself and about life as you are on your own. That’s the ultimate. You gain new friends and relationships and it’s also where I met my wife.”
One of Hannah’s highlights last season with Gran Canaria was a November home clash against Maccabi Tel Aviv. In what was a must win for Maccabi’s coach at the time Neven Spahija, the Spanish squad put in one of their best showings of the Euroleague season in which they went 8-22. Hannah went off for 15 points, ing 6/6 from the field while dishing out 5 assists in the victory which saw the dismissal of Spahija following the contest.
“Maccabi is one of the best teams in Europe and I love playing against the best. I was pumped to play against Scottie Wilbekin and I wanted to show my best. I always love to play against Maccabi and it was a great experience.”
Now on the other side of 30, Hannah knows what it takes to still stay in the best possible shape in order to perform on a day in and day out basis, “It’s all about being responsible and taking care of your body. I stretch a lot and I do a lot of weight room sessions. I try to eat as best as I can and make sure to take care of my body on and off the court.”
For every basketball player, the NBA is always the ultimate goal, but all in all, Hannah has had an excellent career overseas where he has played for a decade, “I’m really content where I am at in life and how things turned out for me. Most people from my area don’t make it to where I have. I’m happy how things turned out. Sure it’s a dream of every basketball player to play in the NBA, but I’m happy as to where I am.”
What will be the key for Hannah and Andorra at Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion? “When we figure out how to win tough games on the road, that will be the key. We’ve got to be mentally tough.”