Justin Tillman’s time, Franco win at any cost, Adomaitis not giving up, Ray McCallum the stat sheet stuffer – Hapoel TLV downs Jerusalem

Justin Tillman – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il


Justin Tillman ate Hapoel Jerusalem alive with 37 points as the big man scored at will in the point and devastated an undersized capital city squad. When word came from Jerusalem that center Idan Zalmanson had an ankle issue everyone knew that Hapoel Tel Aviv was going to try and use their two bigs Tillman and Tyrique Jones to take advantage of the situation under the basket and boy did they ever. Tillman’s 37 points tied the season high set by Coty Clarke and showed what type of issues Dainties Adomaitis has in the paint. Had Jones not gotten hurt he would have easily been able to score more than the 9 points he did in just 11 minutes of action. Add Daniel Koperberg and you get to a total of 50 points from the trio and if you want to be even more generous you can also take the 8 points that Jonathan Mor scored as the bigs chalked up 58 of the 95 points. Coach Danny Franco knew that he would be able to take advantage of the inside and that’s exactly what he did as Tillman took center stage, “When I had my touch going with my quick release, nobody could stop me. Everybody stepped up and played defense. I’ve been through a lot this year from losing both my parents to COVID-19 to switching teams and getting injured. I feel blessed to be healthy and to be part of this team in a country that I love.”

Hapoel Tel Aviv celebrates – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il


Hapoel Tel Aviv needed this win badly and in fact they need every win they can get as they battle to get as far away as possible from the league’s relegation zone. Once Maccabi Haifa had chalked up the W against Bnei Herzliya, Franco had to make sure his squad walked away with the victory or else that gaol at the bottom of the standings would have gotten that much tighter. However, it wasn’t a cake walk as it looked like its as going to be as James Young went down in a heap after scoring a dozen points in the early goings while Tyrique Jones also played only 11 minutes and had to leave with an injury. “This was a very big win for the club because we came into this game with a new lineup,” explained the winning coach Danny Franco. “We played exceptionally well in the first half but then we lost some players to injury and the guys came off the bench to battle and fight for the team.” Franco also spoke about the relegation situation, “This is just one battle in a long war and we are still in a very precarious situation in the standings. We have to stay modest but I believe that this will be a fight all the way to the end. We have a go game by game and slowly but surely.”

Dainius Adomaitis – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman


Over at Jerusalem it’s clear that Dainius Adomaitis is having a very, very tough time getting his team to play the type of basketball that he would like. It hasn’t been easy for the coach since his arrival a couple of months ago as he came in to replace a beloved bench boss in Oded Katash. Add to that his desire to put his mark own the team and play his style of ball. As the losses continue to mount the level of frustration must be going up as well. Who is responsible for the issues at the club? Could Adomaitis be considering the idea of leaving the Reds? “This is the coach’s responsibility. I will be the last person who will give up and the last person who would not believe in these guys. We missed shots and for sure the pressure is on us and it’s my job to take the pressure. I think they are really in everything. We all can’t blame the players.”

Ray McCallum – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il


One of the positives for Jerusalem was the debut of guard Ray McCallum who just joined the team after featuring in the G-League bubble. In his first game with the Reds, the Madison, Wisconsin native scored 18 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and dished out 6 assists in 29 minutes. Not bad, not bad at all. The Detroit Mercy product talked about arriving in the Holy Land and shared some of his early thoughts after participating in just one practice with the club and then getting the start, “I’ve been extremely excited to come here and play. First time in Israel. Heard nothing but great things about the club and the fans. It (The game) was a great atmosphere and great experience. Unfortunately we didn’t get the win, but for me I’m happy to be here and really my first time being with the team was yesterday. I’m trying to know the system and the players. We have a great opportunity for us.”

McCallum was selected in the 2nd round of the 2013 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings and played over 150 games in the world’s best league with Kings, Spurs and Grizzlies. He also has played in the Euroleague, the ACB and China as well, This is my 8th year as a pro and coming to a new team in the middle of the season is part of the business. When I got the call I knew it was a great challenge ahead with a historical club like this. We are expected to win. I wanted to try to help the club get back to be winning ways.” So far, McCallum has been welcomed with open arms and he’s well aware of the challenge ahead, “I get along with everybody. We have 2 games next week and this will be a big week of preparation for us. I think each game we will improve and figure it out.” Finally, was McCallum surprised to get the start in his first game with the club? “I was surprised to be in the lineup, it’s just part of the game. I was ready to step in and fill the role.”

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