Jake Cohen the heartbeat of Maccabi, veteran leader and all around competitor keeps the letter “I” out of Team

Dec 12, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

This Maccabi Tel Aviv player is consistently the first off the bench to congratulate a teammate, to give a high-five or offer words of support.

This Maccabi Tel Aviv player has been one of the most important voices when it comes to who is an Israeli hoopster as issue that has generated much press over the past few years.

This Maccabi Tel Aviv player is an anchor with the Israel National team and has been since the Blue & White revolution began under Oded Katash and continued now with Guy Goodes.

This Maccabi Tel Aviv player began his third stint with the Yellow & Blue this season and is someone that the club should have never have allowed to leave following the 2019/20 campaign.

This Maccabi Tel Aviv player has been almost shut out of Euroleague play this season, featuring less than when he was playing under Neven Spahija.

This Maccabi Tel Aviv player may be one of the most important individuals on the team, a natural leader and all around “mentch”.

This Maccabi Tel Aviv player is Jake Cohen.

Jake Cohen is heartbeat of Maccabi Tel Aviv. Jake Cohen is an all-around competitor who always keeps the letter “I” out of “Team” even if it hurts his own chance to contribute.

The Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania native helped the Yellow & Blue to a 71-64 comeback victory over Hapoel Beer Sheva with 6 points, 6 rebounds and a team second best +10 in a win that Oz Blayzer described as being “a win we had to have.”

Cohen helped lead Maccabi Tel Aviv to 3 Israeli league championships during his second stint with the team and developed into a key cog to the club playing over 21 minutes in 28 games in the domestic competition during the 19/20 campaign while scoring 10.8 points, grabbing 4.8 rebounds and dishing out 4.8 assists. As for volume, Cohen went 93/156 for 60% from 2 and 24/58 for 41.4% from 3.

Jake Cohen – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

In Euroleague action back in 19/20, Cohen played in 24 games clocking in 13.3 minutes a contest while scoring 5.4 points and snatching 2 boards a game in a season that saw Maccabi end the shortened season due to COVID-19 with a record of 19-9.

After Cohen and Maccabi couldn’t come to a contract agreement for last year he headed to Spain’s ACB League and signed with Obradoiro where he was brought in to be a veteran voice and presence which he did so admirably in 35 games where he played close to 22 minutes while averaging 8.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per match.

Jake Cohen and Ante Zizic – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

When he signed back on with Maccabi, all indications were that he would pick up right where he left off in July 2020. However, what wasn’t calculated into the equation was how well Roman Sorkin would adapt to the Yellow & Blue and that kept Cohen not only glued to the bench for many a continental clash but also out of the squad, having to watch his teammates from the stands.

This was definitely not the ideal return to Israel and the one Cohen had thought it would be.

Cohen has only stepped on the floor in two games thus far and played 5.5 minutes while averaging 4 points.

Jake Cohen – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

The lack of playing time in the Euroleague has also had an effect on his Israeli league performance. In 8 games thus far, Cohen is playing 17.6 minutes while averaging 6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game which is a stark drop-off from his last season at Yad Eliyahu.

But where the biggest dip can be found is that in the volume of shots that he is taking. Cohen is 11/17 from 2 and 5/13 from 3 which is way, way off his 19/20 numbers where he was taking 5.6 shots from 2 and 2.1 from 3 per game. This season it’s 2.1 from 2 and 1.6 from 3. YIKES!

Just last night in the win over Beer Sheva, Cohen took a grand total of 1 shot. Yes, 1 shot.

Now, I don’t know if that is in coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s game plan or not, but if one would want to get Jake Cohen going, it would be by A) playing more time and B) taking more shots.

On the issue of playing time, Maccabi have a double week coming up at Fenerbahce and then at home against defending champions Anadolu EFES.

You have a player like Cohen who didn’t play a second on Thursday in the loss against Kazan and you are without center Jalen Reynolds who had neck spasms and couldn’t play, why not let him clock in for 30+ minutes and feature in the offense?

Ante Zizic – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Why allow Ante Zizic to play 31 minutes? (Scottie Wilbekin played 33 minutes as well)

Sfairopoulos gave his reasoning on the issue, “Most important is how the team can win games and overcome this period.”

All true, but is it also a case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face?

Yes and no.

A league win is expected, a league loss would ratchet up the pressure into high gear ahead of two Euroleague games.

While Maccabi needed the win as Blazyer reiterated as well as the coach, Cohen, a proven veteran who is as loyal as a soldier you’ll find would lay it all out on the line and focus on the now and not on what was, “It’s part of the job. The last month doesn’t affect how I come into the game. I try to go into every game aggressively. It’s not an ideal situation for me and it’s something I’ve got to deal with and I want to contribute. I’ve had this situation before but it is as a team where we have to improve because if each one of us begins to think about themselves, it’s the team mentality and that is something that we have to focus on.”

Interestingly enough, perhaps Cohen was trying to send a veiled message after it was reported that James Nunnally and Iftach Ziv were thrown out of practice last Tuesday after a heated verbal exchange.

Captain John Dibartolomeo who himself has picked up his play of late, spoke about what he felt a player like Cohen could do to get going, “Players go through this all the time. They are veteran players and I know how good they are, I have no doubt they will play better. We had a rough time spot recently and that had an effect on all of us. It’s important to stay positive and work hard and find small things like I tell myself. Try to pile on some good small things to get a better momentum.”

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

While Sfairopoulos is under a tremendous amount of stress and pressure to get results in the Euroleague, he’s got to get a player like Cohen into gear because he is the type who can be a positive influence and a leader for the entire squad.

Why bring Cohen back to Israel if you are not going to take advantage of those attributes?

The bottom line is, Cohen can make that difference and needs to get consistent playing time and while the Israeli league season is long, the European one is not. 14 of 34 games are now in the books with two more coming up this week. Maccabi has got to get out of their 4 game losing streak sooner rather than later or else there may be some serious changes on the way.

The Yellow & Blue are still in a playoff spot at 7-7 but that can disappear with the snap of a finger just like what had happened in the Avengers. Maccabi doesn’t want to see their campaign go down the tubes and right now as Dibartolomeo said it’s just trying to do those small things to get rolling.

And as Cohen said, “Every win is important and it’s a step in the right direction.”

Maccabi has to hope that the victory over Beer Sheva was that step in the right direction before it is too late.

Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

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