After finishing up a successful season with Hapoel Gilboa Galil that saw the club advance to the Israel Basketball League Final Four for the first time since 2011, sharp shooter Amit Gershon who will continue with the team for the upcoming campaign spoke to The Sports Rabbi about his career, some of the big names he’s played with, role models and much more.
“This was a very challenging season from so many aspects whether it was the coronavirus and other things that we had to deal with throughout the campaign,” began Gershon. “But now it’s time to turn the page and begin to focus on the upcoming season.”
In the semifinals, Gilboa Galil made it so close to the championship game but Lior Lubin’s squad succumbed to Maccabi Tel Aviv and their star guard Scottie Wilbekin who drained a game winning 3-pointer. As the disappointment has begun to dissipate, Gershon has been able to reflect on what was a wonderful year, “We always believed that we could do some great things, but let’s just say that the deck was stacked against us at the beginning of the season. Whether it was doubt about the team, or will there even be a team, or that the team wasn’t good enough I’m thrilled that we were able to get so far and it’s just too bad that we didn’t go just a bit further.”
In the regular season Gershon scored 3.6 points, grabbed 2.4 rebounds and dished out 1.2 assists in almost 19 points per game while in the playoffs Gershon bumped his stats up to 5.3 points with a stellar 60% beyond the arc. His best game came when the team needed it most in game two of the quarterfinals where he dropped 15 points against Hapoel Holon.
“I have to admit that I didn’t have my best season, but I did improve in my overall game of basketball as well as on the mental side of the game in a campaign that saw many ups and downs but will make me tougher as time goes on. If you look at my statistics I’m not going to fool anyone, this wasn’t a great season but I do believe that in the big moments when the club needed me I was there.”
Interestingly enough, Gershon’s first trip to the free throw line came on Gameday 25 which is no doubt a bit of a rarity, however the guard explained that it may have been a time due to his play, “It’s really strange. If I’m correct I actually took plenty of 2-point shots and I know that last season I went to the line with some frequency. Perhaps it was a lack of aggressiveness on my part and the style of game that was being played which was a bit different.”
One of the great things about Gilboa Galil is that they are a club who prides themselves on their youth department and that included eight who were on the team’s roster after the coronavirus break, “It’s really great and the communities around the Gilboa area are also very excited about that. To be able to see youngsters who grew up in their won youth system advance to the senior team is something amazing and hopefully we can see that at even more clubs.”
Gershon played with a number of up and coming Israelis Yotam Hanochi and Iftach Ziv who impressed throughout the campaign, “Yotam is a huge talent who is just taking his first steps as a professional and I believe that we will hear plenty from him down the road.”
“Iftach took a gigantic leap after the coronavirus break and it was great to see his self confidence that almost took us to the final. He was super important for us to reach the semifinal and although I’m not a prophet I know that he is going in the right direction and will continue to do so.”
Before the break, Gershon also played with a couple of foreigners who became stars very quickly in Jarmar Gulley and Justin Tillman both which didn’t return after the break, “It was a lot of fun and they were both incredible players. Jarmar’s life story was truly fascinating how he was at the bottom and now how he’s playing at the top. They are both terrific people and I was very happy to play with them.”
On Gameday 11 Gershon and Gilboa Galil hosted Maccabi Tel Aviv in what was one of the great games of the season. Gershon hit a big triple but at the end of two overtime periods, the Yellow & Blue pulled out a 112-100 win. “This was one of those crazy, crazy games and it’s really too bad that we didn’t win it. In general when there are fans at Gan Ner it’s juts so much fun to play especially when it’s against Maccabi or Jerusalem.”
Gershon began playing basketball when he was in kindergarten and in grade 5 played with friends at Maccabi Pardes Chana and from there went on to the Hadera and Emek Izrael youth departments.
“The two years I spent at the sleep away program at Emek Izrael were very, very influential in my development and I believe that if I hadn’t made the move from Hadera I doubt I would be playing basketball today. I’m very grateful to Matan Birnbaum, Sharon Avrahami, Erez Bitman and Oded Handler who gave me the opportunity that helped mold me as a player.”
The player that Gershon looked up to was former Israel National Team player Dagan Yivzori, “I really like him and we both play the same position so it made me even more excited to watch him play.”
Hapoel Afula was where the guard continued to hone his skills and was with the team from 2014-2917. Each season Gershon improved moving his scoring averages from 3.1 to 5.4 and finally to 9.4 points per game in 26 minutes of play while hitting 41% of his long distance shots.
“Afula really helped me improve year to year as I was able to be part of the same system for three straight seasons after graduating high school. Each campaign the club continued to help me advance and this was very critical for my development.”
For the 2017/18 season Gershon was off to the south and Hapoel Beer Sheva where he played a crucial piece in the team’s promotion to the top division as he scored 8.9 points per game in 25 minutes while once again shooting 41% from downtown.
“It was incredible to help the team earn promotion. We were a very does look team with a great group of guys with whom I’m still in touch with. We made history in Beer Sheva which is such an amazing feeling.”
Gershon continued with the club for the 2018/19 campaign under new head coach Rami Hadar and scored 6 points per game while hitting 37% of his shots from 3-point land while also scoring at a 90% rate from the charity stripe in 15 minutes. The Hadera native was named the league’s Discovery Player of the Season and helped the club advance to the playoffs against all odds where they were pitted against Hapoel Jerusalem.
In fact, Beer Sheva also advanced to the finals of the preseason tournament where they fell to Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion. But his best game cane when he scored 32 points with 9 triples versus Hapoel Gilboa Galil. “Rami is a very unique person in Israeli basketball whether it’s his demands in practice or the intensity he asks from his players. I think that I learned and improved under Rami as well as from the players that were there as well. It was certainly a challenge and I believe that this is the most accurate word because there were so many ups and downs that we experienced. This was a very, very important step in my career.”
Winning the award in my first season in the Winner League was exciting. If you would gave asked me when I was in grade 5 as I was just beginning to really play basketball that one day I would have been in the bet league in Israel and on top of that win that award, I would have never believed it. Not many people believed in me and it was just amazing to receive such a recognition.”
While in Beer Sheva, Gershon played with a great group of guys like Chanan Colman, Taylor Braun, Jordan Swingman Travis Warech and Adi Cohen Saban who made the season a lot of fun. But when it came to the player who was the toughest to play against he went with one of his former Gilboa Galil teammates, “Jarmar Gulley in practice . He was just amazing.” When pushed to name a player on a different team he went with Maccabi’s Scottie Wilbekin.
While playing for the Israel National Team is one of Gershon’s goals, he also has some dreams that he wants to make into reality, “I want to continue to improve and become more and more of a significant player in this league. I want to achieve as much as I can and perhaps even play in Europe and go as far as I can.”