“Keenan is our main point guard” What makes Maccabi’s Evans tick ahead of Barcelona

Oct 28, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv take on Barcelona on Thursday night (21:05) at Yad Eliyahu as they look to add another win onto their three game winning streak. However, their opponent comes into the matchup with a perfect 6-0 start and remain the only undefeated team in the Euroleague after Nikola Mirotic’s acrobatic scoop shot downed Fenerbahce as time expired.

The Yellow & Blue enter the contest with a 4-2 record as they head into a date with Sarunas Jasikevicius’s red hot squad.

The question is should Maccabi be satisfied with their 4-2 record?

Prior to the season, I had marked down that Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad would sport a 5-2 record by Friday October 29th thinking that Maccabi would lose to Milano on the road (check) and Barcelona at home (we will find out in 48 hours). What I didn’t budget was a foolish loss to Red Star Belgrade at Yad Eliyahu.

Keenan Evans & Derrick Williams – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

With so many home games and a favorable start to the season schedule, Maccabi needs to go 5-2 in their opening 7 games with a tough November away schedule of Baskonia, CSKA, Olympiacos and a game Alba Berlin featuring Israelis Yovel Zoosman and Tamir Blatt. With only one home date against Monaco and the always dangerous Mike James who began his professional career in the Holy Land Maccabi will be facing a stiff test so the more wins the merrier.

Can Maccabi still finish 5-2 by the end of October or will the club be 4-3? While a 4-3 is a positive record, 5-2 would be a helluva lot better.

One of the players who has been coming into their own over the past couple of weeks in Euroleague play is Keenan Evans who has received rave reviews from the staff and his teammates as not only being a scorer but a big time defender.

Keenan Evans – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Evans, who arrived in Israel last season and played under coach Elad Hasin at Hapoel Haifa is in his third season abroad after playing in the G-League after attending Texas Tech. The 25-year old joined Maccabi in place of Chris Jones who the club didn’t pick up their option on and has since signed with ASVEL Villeurbanne over the summer.

When Evans joined The Sports Rabbi last season to talk about his career, it was clear that he would be able to make the jump to the top team in the country and become a solid player in continental competition as time goes on. Well it hasn’t taken Evans long to make that impact.

Keenan Evans: Photo credit- Dov Halickman

Evans was able to slice and dice his way through the Zalgiris defense as he pleased and was able to read the plays in front of him while dishing out four assists and drawing 6 fouls.

“Keenan is our main point guard and I believe a lot in him,” Sfairopoulos said. “It’s his first year and this is a player that I wanted a lot. It’s not just his offense but his defense is great. Defensively he gives us something that is very important which is pressure on the ball, I’m very happy as to how he has performed and as long as he plays, he will feel more comfortable.”

Evans will face a stiff test in Barcelona, a team that not only has a lot of weapons but as Sfairopoulos says, plays aggressively for the full 40 minutes.

“They are a great defensive team and when they have energy they are very aggressive. We have to be aggressive on offense to fight their aggressiveness on defense. Everyone has to play with coordination with great speed on offense. They know how to win with the small details. We will have to fight hard for 40 minutes.”

Derrick Williams – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Derrick Williams who himself was a Euroleague rookie a number of years ago also chimed in on what Evans brings to the table in a game like the one coming up versus Barcelona, “He’s one of the special players and he’s really athletic. He has the confidence to take a buzzer beater shot at the end of the clock. Scottie may not have carried the scoring against Zalgiris and Keenan was able to pick it up. He may be a rookie, but it’s a good challenge for him. Guarding Cory Higgins and guarding the some of the best players so far but we will be right behind him. He will get better as the season goes on.”

Evans looks at his own play as aggressive and that will be key in a game against one of the best teams in the continent, “Against Zalgiris I just wanted to be aggressive in every part of the game. Whether that’d be attacking to find my teammates, or looking for my own shot. Defensively, diving on the floor, getting steals, I just wanted to be all over the place.”

He will certainly need to be all over the place in order to stop the lethal attack that Saras will send at Maccabi and while Barca may be a great team, Angelo Caloiaro doesn’t want to give them too much credit.

“I saw Barcelona won at the buzzer and they are really good and beat a good Fener team on the road. We will have to play smart and not turnover the ball. We have to be solid. You can’t come in and think that a team is better than us. We expect to win all of our home games.”

Williams echoed the starter’s thoughts, “We saw the buzzer beater by Mirotic. You don’t want to look too far ahead but this is a test for us to see how good we are. They are 6-0 and this is a good challenge for us to see how we are as a team.”

Game on!

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