Cut to the Chase: Simon and Dijon look ahead to Holon in Champions League action

Jan 31, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

Hapoel Holon visits JDA Dijon in their opening Champions League Round of 16 group stage game on Tuesday (21:30 Israel time) as Guy Goodes’s squad will look to pick up a win against the French team. Last year, the purples were able to advance all the way to the Final 8 while two seasons ago, Dijon finished in third place overall of the competition as both sides will look to once again reach the latter stages in order to attempt another shot at European Glory.

One of coach Nenad Markovic’s key players at Dijon is Chase Simon who has spent the past few years with the French team while also having plied his trade in Israel during the 2016/17 season. Just ahead of the game, the 32-year old swingman spoke to The Sports Rabbi about how he fell in love with the sport of basketball while growing up in Detroit, his connection with Michael Jordan’s World Champion Chicago Bulls and what he expects against Holon.

Chase Simon – Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League

“They have a talented team and I have played against a number of the players including Adam Smith and Chris Johnson when we all played in France and Tyrus McGee as well. We have to play tough and don’t let them get anything easy. We also have to contain the guards as they like to run the floor. We have to slow the game down, play tough defense and don’t give them anything easy.”

Dijon have performed extremely well over the past couple of years in the French league finishing 27-7 good for first place in the regular season before falling in the final to ASVEL while the season before that the club took third place in the Champions League and ended the shortened COVID campaign domestically in second place.

Chase Simon – Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League

Simon, who signed on back in the summer of 2020 has been a major factor in team’s success has had a bit of an up and down year due to injuries, “Last season I was a creator and a guard that scored and played defense while being used as an advantage at the 2 where I usually would have a height advantage.

“This season I have been injured or hurt most of the season but I am getting back into it. Following the injuries there was rarely time for practice due to the tight schedule so I was basically going from injury right into playing. Once I get back to 100% I’ll once again be that scorer and defender while now I will do whatever I need to help the team.”

Over the summer Dijon brought in a new coach as Nenad Markovic took over the reins from Laurent Legnam, “He insists on bringing toughness on both offense and defense while having continuous flow on offense where the ball is constantly moving, with screens that gives us a lot of options to improvise and to keep the defense moving.”

Chase Simon – Photo Credit:

Back during the 2016/17 season, Simon played at Maccabi Ashdod under had coach Meir Tapiro and assistant Yonatan Alon on a team that was in the process of developing some of the country’s future stars.

“We had a lot of young players that are doing well now like Iftach Ziv who is now at Maccabi Tel Aviv and Adam Ariel who now plays with Hapoel Jerusalem. They were gaining experience that year and they moved around the foreigners except for me! We were actually a playoff team according to the second half of the season but we couldn’t catch up to the damage from the first half. it was fun and I miss being there.”

Chase Simon – Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League

Simon grew up in Detroit and remembers from a very young age that he had a love for the sport but it was only years later that he began to play basketball one a more serious level.

“My granddad loved sports and he watched a lot of basketball when I was younger. The Detroit Pistons and the Bad Boys were it back then and I fell in love with the game. My family gave me a ball and I just started playing, but I only really began playing organized basketball when I was 13 years old.”

Tracy McGrady may have been Simon’s role model, but this cousin Randy Brown played together with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls during their second 3-peat, “Randy is my grandma’s sister’s son on my dad’s side. I only met him when he was older and didn’t know until later that I was good. So when I met him during college, he set up some workouts with legendary trainer Tim Grover a couple of times.”

Chase Simon – Photo Credit: Detroit Mercy

In college, Simon played with a number of players that would go on to play in Israel including Eli Holman, Evans Bruinsma as well as Ray McCallum Jr. who played with Hapoel Jerusalem last season, “I talked to Ray about signing in Jerusalem” he recalled.

But must importantly the one thing he learned during his time under head coach Ray McCallum Sr. was that college is a stepping stone to the next level, “You have to be a pro before you are a pro. You can’t just be a college player as you need to develop your work ethic and getting body ready.”

Chase Simon – Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League

Now in his 10th season playing abroad, Simon has couldn’t put his finger on one extraordinary experience in his many years whether in Israel, France or Poland but did say with a chuckle, “Expect anything and expected the unexpected, You just never know.”

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