Ja Morant’s pal Shaq Buchanan, Chief Returns, Whittington stabilizes Beer Sheva, Kiryat Ata hangs on – Wrapping up Round 7

Nov 29, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

Saturday night saw the return of last season’s Israel league MVP in one “Chief” Chinanu Onuaku as he graced the court for Hapoel Tel Aviv in a move that was universally complimented throughout the Holy Land Hoops basketball world. The big man scored 16 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in the Reds 108-80 victory over Hapoel Galil Elyon.

Any time a team can bring in a game changer like Onuaku, you’ve got to do it no matter how much you are happy with a player like Chris Horton.

Horton, who is not going to be playing again for Hapoel Tel Aviv is in the midst of looking for a new team and will not be out at risk of getting injured while the process is ongoing which makes a ton of sense. The center came into the Reds as a question mark but very quickly found a place and had some solid performances which should come as no surprise for anyone who had followed the Georgia native.

The 28-year old will be an asset to any team and will provide solid play in the paint at both ends of the floor. I had the chance to talk to Horton in the Hapoel lockerroom after the club’s EuroCup win over London Lions and he was such a “mensch” as they say in Yiddish; just a good guy trying his best.

Sports can sometimes be a mean business and this is one of those cases where they is no question that Horton must feel bummed out due to his situation. You gotta feel for a guy like that and hopefully he will find a new home quickly.

Or Cornelius and Siim Sander-Vene – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Hapoel Jerusalem’s Siim Sander Vene grabbed the opportunity that head coach Aleksandar Dzikic gave him while a slew of Maccabi Tel Aviv players did not in what was a 80-75 win for the Reds. What role did Oded Katash play in this defeat? Find out by CLICKING HERE!

Hapoel Beer Sheva celebrates – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

Hapoel Beer Sheva looks to have turned it around with two straight wins in league play while also allowing more than 20 points less than they had in their first games of the season after sinking Hapoel Eilat 79-70. Part of that is due to the fact that head coach Lior Lubin brought in Greg Whittington who provides a stability for the team in the paint on both ends of the floor. From a defensive standpoint he gives the Southern Reds size as well as a rebounding presence while on the offensive side, the Israeli league 2019 rebounding leader and All-Star has been just that cleaning up the leftovers down low. With Whittington being such a big factor, Beer Sheva has a real shot to find themselves in the position to fight for a playoff spot as well as mazing it into the Top 8 for the Israel State Cup.

“The numbers say it’s the defense and the changes in the squad,” Lubin said. “It’s a number of things that have helped us. We played at a fast pace beforehand but now we gave slowed somewhat. It was a tough road game but we started off well and because we kept the turnovers low on the road that is how you can win. Every win is important and making the State Cup Top 8 is important as well. Whittington brings a lot of experience. He brings size and the basketball IQ that we were missing. It’s not easy to get wins but he understands basketball which helps the team out.”

Kiryat Ata celebrates – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

The last game of the round was a crazy one! Kiryat Ata jumped all over Hapoel Gilboa Galil and grabbed a 27-9 lead after just ten minutes of play, but Rami Hadar’s Galilee squad began to chip away and chip away until the cut the lead down to just a couple of points, 72-70 with just over two minutes to go in the game. However, Chavaughn Lewis, Juvonte Reddic and Amin Stevens were able to stymie Payton Willis and Justin Gorham to put the finishing touches on the 81-76 win. Kiryat Ata who are coached by veteran Sharon Avrahami were promoted before the season from the second league and have already won three games which is good enough for 7th place. While Avrahami was happy to have come away with the win, he certainly would have liked it to have been a bit easier once his team took such a big lead.

“We played great basketball in the first half but didn’t in the second, we got nervous for no reason and we had trouble with the small lineup. We needed to make the right plays and Stevens thought the game as over with a 5 point lead when he went for an alley-oop. We need to learn how to finish these games off properly.”

As for Rami Hadar, he was definitely not a happy camper after the game and alluded to some issues within the squad itself, “We have some issues and they are not just related to basketball. The comeback was great but we have to play with that energy ftom the start of the game.”

Nes Ziona got a tremendous game out of Shaq Buchanan who dropped 30 points in their 91-84 win over Bnei Herzliya. The Murray State product and good friend of none other than Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant has played well this season having scored in double digits four out of five games prior to his 30-point special. Now he’s averaging 18.8 points per game which paces his 4th in the league behind Erick Green, Tyler Bey and Jalen Hudson. Not bad at all.

This week, Buchanan and company will be heading to Poland for a pair of games in the European North Basketball League which will allow the players to get some more playing time in under their belts. This will surely make the likes of Buchanan pretty happy to continue to show off their skills and maybe find a way back to the NBA after having been a part of the Grizzlies organization.

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