“It was an easy decision to come to Afula” Veteran big man Yanick Moreira prepares for a new challenge in Israel

Aug 28, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

There is no doubt that one of the most interesting and exciting new foreigners that will be playing in Israel this season is Yanick Moreira who will be playing for Israel Basketball League newcomer Hapoel Afula. The Angolan big man has many years of top level experience which includes over a decade of having played in Europe, a Basketball Champions League title in 2019 with Bologna as well as having shared the floor with top NBA players before they made their breakout.

Moreira will be a main cog in head coach Roie Perel’s machine as they take their first steps into the top division with a mix of veterans and youngsters alike up in the “Capital of the Jezreel Valley”. Just as training camp opened up, The Sports Rabbi visited Afula and sat down with Moreira to get a better understanding as to why he decided to make the move to the Holy Land, how he is in the process of accomplishing his dream as well as his goals and challenges for the campaign ahead.

Yanick Moreira – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“I’m super excited, it’s a new challenge for me,” a smiling Moreira began. “I’ve never played in Israel before for a season. I want to adjust quickly to the league, coach and my teammates, work hard everyday.”

It’s not everyday a player like Moreira who has tasted much success would sign with a newly promoted club but that’s exactly what the 32-year old did, “It was a pretty clear decision as I got on the phone with the coach for about 10-15 minutes about what the team was going to do and it was just really an easy decision. I needed a place to restart and a chance to learn a different culture.”

Moreira said that he needed to make a fast decision about taking on the new challenge at Afula and while he spoke to some players, it was primarily the coach who sold him on the opportunity who he is already enjoying working with.

“I asked a lot of questions to other guys and the coach I know some guys that play here, but I didn’t have time to ask them as it was a quick decision to come. The practices have been good so far. We have started a bit slow because we are waiting for the other guys to get here and it won’t be easy for us with the newcomers. But we will take it one day at a time, work hard and things will click during the season.”

Roi Perel – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

As for what Moreira brings to the team, the center can offer a wealth of knowledge as well as experience but certainly doesn’t feel old at 32, “I am trying to bring a lot of energy and be a positive guy, help as much as I can and in any way I can. We’ll see as coach might put me in a different position and I’ll see if I can take advantage of that. We just got to keep working and see how it’s going to go in the preseason.

“I’m getting old, but I feel young and I work a lot on my body, maintain and try and stay young. I don’t feel old yet, 32 is still, young. If I was 35 I would feel like I am old, so I have a couple of years in the tank.”

As a youngster, Moreira grew up playing both soccer and basketball but ultimately his love for the latter trumped all as he looked up to many players but a local point guard stood out for him, “I was playing soccer and it was between the two sports and I fell in love with basketball. I decided just to keep playing basketball. There was a basketball player from back home Miguel Lutonda who was a point guard, the best point guard.”

After beginning his career in Angola with Primeiro de Agosto, Moreira decided to head to the United States where he played at South Plains Community College before moving to Southern Methodist University which was coached by the legendary Larry Brown.

Yanick Moreira guarding Spencer Weisz – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“He was one of the best coaches that I have ever had. He is a tough coach, a teacher and most important he was like a father and cared about every player that played for him. To this day I stay in contact with him and text him and he texts me back. He was great and I had a great two years playing under him.”

Following stops in France and Spain, Moreira went back to North America, but this time to Canada where he played for the Raptors 905, Toronto’s G-League team where he shared the court with Pascal Siakim.

“It was a great experience and we had a great G-League team. People went up (to the NBA) and guys did great. That was a great year that we had.”

In 2019, the center joined Virtus Bologna just in time for a run at the BCL title which they would go on and capture in Antwerp, Belgium, “It was great, the way the team started the season they were undefeated when I got there. I had switched teams in the middle of the season and they welcomed me with open arms. We made a run to win the whole thing and it was a great experience and a great group of guys.”

One of his teammates with the Italian club was Kevin Punter who has continued to climb the ladder of success and is now a mainstay in the Euroleague, “I think KP was always like that, a hard worker and a guy that you knew would jump really quick. It was just a matter of time until he would get that type of opportunity. To see him reach his goal that’s great, he worked hard for that.”

Yanick Moreira – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Angola is currently playing in the FIBA World Cup without Moreira who decided he needed some time away from the court, “I didn’t expect to go due to when it started as I had other plans for myself for the summer, family stuff so I wasn’t available to go. I just decided to spend time with the family.”

As for goals for the upcoming season, Moreira’s are straight and to the point, “Try to win as many games as we can and try to get this team where they belong and stay in the first division.”

Moreira feels that he has reached his dreams and succeeded in having lived the basketball life that was just a thought before he embarked on the career that he has had to date.

“I think that I made it; a kid from Angola decided to leave home and went to play basketball in college and is now playing overseas in Europe for so many years. So I think I made it. I never thought that I would be playing in Europe for more than 10 years. Just the fact that I am playing all over for more than 10, 11, 12 years that’s a dream come true. Not a lot of people from the same country as me can say they played all over Europe for more than 10 years.”

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