Jordan McRae and a deep Hapoel Tel Aviv have the tools to contend for titles in Israel, Europe

Jan 30, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Hapoel Tel Aviv continued to show plenty of character as they knocked off Nes Ziona 102-97 in overtime in what was yet another hard fought battle that saw Danny Franco’s team lay it all out on the court in order to record the hard earned win. We have seen a number of these victories over the past little while, in fact ever since the State Cup blowout defeat at home to Hapoel Jerusalem. However, maybe, just maybe that was the best things that could have happened to them.

The Reds have rattled off victories against Maccabi Tel Aviv by a point and another one at Nes Ziona in 45 minutes as well as a dominant win over Paris immediately following the Jerusalem loss and a wild 2-point conquest against Turk Telekom in the EuroCup.

Danny Franco – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Hapoel’s bench boss Danny Franco really couldn’t ask for more as they now head to Italy for a date at Trento who sit at a paltry 2-10 in continental play. His team has been able to fight off plenty of adversity and find a way to win time and time again and that is the making of a good team and a talented one as well.

The Reds are deep, in fact, very, very deep and that depth has been very crucial in their success.

From 1 on up, Franco has many weapons at his availability and when a player or a number of players are out of action as there had been over the past week due to illness, someone else can step up. There is faith and trust throughout the lineup which maybe, just maybe has resulted in the success that Hapoel has been seeing recently.

Jordan McRae, Chinanu Onuaku, Tomer Ginat, Xavier Munford, Bar Timor, the list goes on and on for Hapoel and it doesn’t matter if they are Israeli or American, domestic or import, everyone can contribute from top to bottom just as they did in the Nes Ziona win.

Danny Franco – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“We struggled a bit in the second half but this was probably our best offensive game this season,” Franco said. “When you come into a game and you think things will be fine, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. We found a way to win, there were great plays especially in the last quarter on from both teams. Anybody who was here in person or watching on TV at home really enjoyed the show that was put on.”

No question that this was an incredible game that saw both teams give Israeli basketball a contest that will be remembered for some time and one of those reasons was without a doubt Jordan McRae.

The swingman has had some fabulous contests over the course of the season including a 36-point performance in a tight win at London Lions just a few weeks ago and after being ill for a week +. McRae came out flat as a pancake in his first game back and was as cold as ice, going scoreless in a first half that saw him a step too slow to make a difference.

But have no fear, in the third quarter went off for 9 points, then added 10 more in the fourth frame and for good measure scored the first 5 points of overtime to finish the contest off with 24 points in an MVP performance. Overall this season, McRae is averaging 17.9 points in the Holy Land for 3rd overall in domestic competition and 16.4 points good for 7th place in continental play.

Jordan McRae – Photo Credit:

However, McRae didn’t want to take any credit for his own play on this night, “Nes Ziona went on a run in the second half and they played well. I started making some shots and it was a really a great team effort as Tomer Ginat and Xavier Munford made some big shots along with Chinanu Onuaku who grabbed big rebounds. It was a total team game. I try to do what I can do. I was out with the flu and being able to get back into the flow in the second half was great.”

McRae looked every bit of a pros, pro elevating for his perfectly squared jumpers to taking the ball to the hoop and having an unstoppable approach and hot hand that was not going to be stopped. He was cool and confident as he lined up to shoot perfect arrows into the heart of the baskets.

Having played over 100 games in the NBA over the course of 5 seasons which included a championship in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, McRae who attended Tennessee has been able to take a thing or two away from his experiences.

“There are a lot of things I can take from the NBA, but the one thing that was always eye opening to me is that everybody is good, but it’s the guys that can do it every night. It’s a lot of games, here it’s not quite 82 but it’s a lot of games as well, but being able to show up here on the court every night. I may have a bad night and it’s someone else’s turn but the fact that our team is so balanced everybody can have a big night at any time, that’s huge for us.”

Jordan McRae – Photo Credit:

It’s not easy to show up every night and McRae who saw this first hand with LeBron James and others makes a super point about what separates the very good players to the greats. It’s also about team work and everyone being on the same page which seems to be the case after the State Cup defeat to Hapoel Jerusalem and shared his feelings about what went down immediately after they were eliminated.

“I felt that we lost the wrong way. There are ways to lose. Teams can make shots and they are better than you that night and I feel that that’s ok, it’s part of life. But we felt that we lost the wrong way, we weren’t ourselves and the ball didn’t move. We all talked amongst each other and said that if we are going to lose it’s going to be because the other team was better that night. We will try to limit the games that we are beating ourselves.”

At Hapoel the 31-year old is showing exactly how he makes an difference by taking this lesson and implementing it to help the Reds as they are without a doubt contenders to win not only the Israeli League title but also the EuroCup with one reason being the deep bench that is at Franco’s disposal.

“I think we are, of course I do, that’s fair to say. Not so many teams are 10-11 deep. I’m not sure other teams have got a guy like Gil Beni who can come in against Maccabi and help us and have that will to win. The same with Adam Ariel, who sometimes doesn’t get the minutes and other times when he dies, he’s hitting big shots, he’s always ready. I think we are really deep top to bottom. We have guys that are ready to play at all times.”

Jordan McRae – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

McRae may have been exhausted as he played over 28 minutes in his first game back, but once again it was that depth that also stepped up in crunch time to notch yet another character win.

“I felt a bit tired in the second half towards the end, but Xavier Munford, Tomer Ginat, anybody who is on the floor continued to make big plays. Ronnie continued to make big shots at the other end, but we didn’t put down our heads and we kept going.”

While McRae would have loved to be out on the court last week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, it was a good thing that he didn’t because he needed to head back to the hospital that night he explained. But without McRae, it was that depth that helped the Reds to the win and really ramped up the trust of every single player that steps onto the court. He knows however, that there will be another crack at Maccabi as he looks ahead, “We trust everybody on our team. I wanted to play and it’s a huge game, but I’m sure we will see them again down the road and it will be a little more important, I’m trying to look forward.”

Looking forward is good for McRae and Hapoel because their future seems to be very, very bright.

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