BASELINES – Israel Basketball Shabbat Shalom Rundown: Players Benched & Mental Heath, Classico On Deck

Oct 22, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Each week just as we head into Shabbat, The Sports Rabbi will bring you his finals thoughts on the Israeli league week that was, Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Euroleague along with the other Blue & White teams in Europe plus you can check out all of the other postgame articles below as well.


European wins for Israeli teams in footy and hoops plus all you need to know about the Classico on Episode #236

Roman was built in a day – Maccabi big man shines in win over Panathinaikos

Maccabi holds on to beat Panathinaikos 77-73 after wild final frame comeback

“I just have to keep working hard” Floyd takes leap to Euroleague after season with Gilboa

Shai Segalovich looks to guide Nahariya back to Promised Land


Maccabi Tel Aviv BC have had a whirlwind of a week and a half and it isn’t going to let up anytime soon. Euroleague wins and losses along with Israeli League wins and losses can always put the pressure cooker that is Maccabi Tel Aviv under the microscope with every play and every move analyzed, dissected and looked at up and down and all around.

One of those issues is the Israeli contingent’s playing time which has been scrutinized by the media including, of course, by yours truly as well.

Israelis played a grand total of 6 seconds last week in the win in France over ASVEL Villeurbanne, then a disappointing by those same Sabras up in Gan Ner in a loss to Hapoel Gilboa Galil who had only 3 imports playing in the game and then having both veteran Jake Cohen and Oz Blazyer not in the the squad for this past Thursday night’s win over Panathinaikos in Euroleague action.

Roman Sorkin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

While Roman Sorkin was superb and captain John Dibartolomeo saw a few minutes on the court, Iftach Ziv did the best as he could onto bench as a cheerleader (and he did do a good job of that down the stretch with Sorkin who were both on the pine as the lead dissipated).

Obviously Ziv has plenty to learn about how the game of basketball is played in the Euroleague and it’s understood if he just sits on the bench and observes what is going on around him on the hardwood and during the timeouts. He will be fine.

The two players are am worried about are Jake Cohen and Oz Blayzer. On one hand they are professionals and veterans who understand the style of play both in Israel and in Europe while both have been contributors in the past. However, both have not made an impact in any game that Maccabi Tel Aviv has played in and that is an issue.

Jake Cohen and Ante Zizic – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

On one hand they haven’t made an impact when they have played and on the other it’s got to be frustrating as heck to find themselves sitting a few rows back behind the basket wearing a mask and watching their teammates win a Euroleague game. Not pleasant, not pleasant at all. I can only think of what brutally horrible feeling it is to be wiped out of playing in continental competition.

There is also a factor of mental health that plays a part in how they will react in a league game that is usually much, much less important than a Euroleague game at this stage of the season. Players who do get the chance to step on the court in the Israeli league should want to do the best that they can in order to convince the coach they have a place in Europe as well, but its;s not a simple as that.

Interestingly enough Daniel Zilberstein will be hosting a series about the topic on Sport 5 next week and I am very much looking forward to seeing it.

Meanwhile, I asked Sfairopoulos of how difficult it is for him to decide who plays and who doesn’t, naming both Cohen and Blayzer as the two guys who didn’t dress and he immediately asked me in jest if I was their agent!

But yes, it is a difficult choice that he has to make each and every game, “I love all of my players and I have to think how we can play against the team we are facing. Deciding is not easy and I believe in all of the players, but I only have 12 spots. It’s a long season and we need all the players. We have players that weren’t dressed and and they have to be ready and we have players who did dress and didn’t play but they all have to be ready for the game against Jerusalem. That is the mental side of the game and they are all professionals who now have to be prepared.

Sean Kilpatrick – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman



I liked how Jerusalem bounced back from a rough Champions League loss and how Sean Kilpatrick just went off for 28 points after being benched over the final 1.5 quarters of that game.

I didn’t like how Hapoel Beer Sheva struggled to score without an instant offense type of guy like they had last season in Caleb Agada.

I liked Amit Simhon’s shooting spree against Hapoel Tel Aviv as he has looked fantastic so far this season and is a nice weapon for coach Elad Hasin.

I didn’t like the Hapoel Tel Aviv defense especially from James Young who was a target of all of the Haifa players on the court knowing that they would be able to score some easy baskets on the former first round NBA draft pick.

Chinanu Onuaku – Photo Credit:

I liked how Bnei Herzliya won their second game in a row and how Chianu Onuaku keeps doing serious damage to anyone in his way.

I liked Joaquin Szuchman’s 17 point performance for Hapoel Eilat in a losing effort as the guard has struggled to score on a consistent basis.

I liked how Holon made sure to pick up a tough win on the road with a solid second half performance against Nes Ziona as Chris Johnson once again was the catalyst in the victory.

I didn’t like seeing Nes Ziona lose yet again and see how they are just struggling to put some positive play together under Lior Lubin with a roster that seems to be continuously in flux.

I liked Hapoel Gilboa Galil putting the screws to Maccabi Tel Aviv in Gan Ner as Guy Kaplan’s squad had only 3 imports playing in the game.

Oz Blayzer – Photo Credit:

I didn’t like everything from Maccabi Tel Aviv in that game from their approach to their play as well as Ioannis Sfairopoulos being absolutely so distraught at his players.

I liked that Hapoel Galil Elyon won their first game since returning to the Premier League as 4 players scored in double figures.

I didn’t like how Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion has looked this year as they have had lots of trouble with a team that just isn’t playing well.


In lieu of quotes this week, here is an amazing story by Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion’s Kris Clyburn that is a must read:



“Beast Mode Activated” Retin Obasohan – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman


Maccabi Tel Aviv plays Hapoel Jerusalem at Yad Eliyahu in Israeli Classico action on Saturday night in a game that will hopefully live up to its billing. The Yellow & Blue Israelis have to produce while the Reds will want to show their hosts that they are still a team that can do some damage and prove that they are worthy to sit atop the standings.

Maccabi then will play a pair of home Euroleague games against Zalgiris and Barcelona while Jerusalem head to Poland to face BM Slam in a MUST WIN Champions League clash.

Plenty of good times ahead!

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