Hapoel Haifa faces Bnei Herzliya, Nahariya plays Gilboa Galil: All the quotes ahead of the season openers

The Israel Basketball League tipped off play for the 2020/21 season in Sunday as Hapoel Eilat sunk Nes Ziona in the opening game of the new campaign, one that promises to be like no other. On Monday two more games will take place between the two promoted teams for the new season, Bnei Herzliya and Hapoel Haifa while the new look Nahariya plays Hapoel Gilboa Galil.

Ahead of the first game in the top division, Hapoel Haifa held a press conference to look ahead at the challenge in front of them.

Head Coach Elad Hasin is excited to get underway, “It’s exciting to be here and we worked very hard to be at this point. We don’t want to do too much talking as we want our words to speak for themselves on the court.

“Every game will be a battle and while we don’t think we can win the league, we want to win and stay in the league. If we can make it to the playoffs then great, but we are new here and we aren’t embarrassed to look ahead but we will take it step by step.”

One of the exciting propositions to look forward to is the Haifa Derby against Maccabi, “When I arrived here and we were at the bottom of the Leumit, I was told that we had two goals, to stay up in the league and to win a Derby. We still haven’t gotten to the second one but we are waiting for one this season.”

Captain Ofek Avital also spoke about what typo of club he expects to see, “I want to see a team that will battle on the court and that’s how we will have to play every game. We have to be modest and hopefully we can continue as to what we did last season.”

The other newcomer Bnei Herzliya has veteran coach Sharon Drucker on the sidelines as he spoke about what he is looking forward to this season, “From experience you never know what will be. Sometimes we prepare well and then we don’t play well and vice versa. The entire coronavirus situation is new for us and we are dealing with it as a new challenge. The Balkan League game were used as exhibition games but we still want to win as we do every game we play.”

What type of team with Herzliya be this season? “It’s tough to say but we want to do as well as we can in the league and win as much as we can. We want to be a fun team that people will want to watch on tv and a club that will give it all on the court.”

As for finding players Drucker says there isn’t any major secrets, “There aren’t any tricks to finding players sometimes they have to adjust to the team, the league and the officiating, I brought Elijah Bryant (who now plays at Maccabi TLV) out of college and that was successful but we have to see how things go.”

Coty Clarke was injured last week and the team moved very quickly to bring in a new player as Jaylen Morris was signed to a temporary contract. “A lot of credit to management for making a move so quickly. We worked very hard to get it closed and I know Jaylen well. He has a great story as he was a D2 player who ended up playing in the NBA.”

Herzliya has two naturalized Israelis on their roster as the entire issue of Olim players has been brought to the forefront as teams are limited as to how many they are allowed to play. Drucker shared his thoughts on the matter, “It’s ridiculous and you have to check 1001 things. I know that every time the is a new contract with the players association this is an issue. I have always liked having a good base of Israelis but there are also those who have immigrated to the country and that have been here for a long time and have given their lives to the sports here. There have to be proper rules so that these things don’t change every year.”

Nitzan Hanochi, the Herzliya captain also spoke about the season ahead, “Last year, I feel that the season in the Leumit was a good one and we had a lot of love from our fans. We have a good team with a lot of character amongst the players that we have brought in. We are coming together well and we have done a lot of things that you won’t see in the stat sheet.”

Nahariya will also play against Gilboa Galil and held their press conference as well via ZOOM. The club’s chairman Nissim Alfasi opened the proceedings, “We want to thank the mayor for supporting the club throughout the years and especially this season due to all of the issues and challenges we are facing. All of the teams are waiting for the funds from the government which we hope that we will be able to receive soon. The distribution will be fairly apportioned properly.”

The city’s Mayor Ronen Marelli also attended the gathering and spoke glowingly about the importance of the club, “We know that sports have taken a big hit but we are fully behind the the club and we are hopeful that we will be allowed to have fans come to the games. We hope that we will be able to make history this season and there is an excellent professional staff and team that we are fielding this year.”

Head Coach Danny Franco also discussed the composition of his team, “We’re excited to start the season and we’ve been practicing for a couple of months already so we’re happy to get the league going. This is a new team and we tried to bring in a player like an Israeli in Joe Alexander together with some younger players. Kalin Lucas will be a dominant player on the team and in a role that was different when he was with Jerusalem plus Dominic Waters who were all familiar with from last season and an up and coming player in Jaron Blossomgame along with veteran Devon Scott. This season will be a process and we are just at the beginning of it.

Alexander is an important signing for the club and Franco spoke about how he was able to reel him in, “We know each other for many years and the relationship has grown over the years. At the end of the day I explained to him what the goal was with the team and how he will be at the forefront. A player like Joe can really be a veteran player who can help and Joe was looking for that as well. I’m happy that he trusted us at Nahariya and he is enjoying every moment and he knows how to appreciate things and is a hard worker.”

Captain Niv Misgav talked about the club being a family, “It’s a very close knit family type club and the fans are really missing. Hopefully we will have them back with us soon.”

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