Maccabi gets bigger as Yellow & Blue looks to get off to solid Euroleague start – Plus wrapping up the Winner Cup

Sep 27, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv didn’t take long to find a replacement for Ante Zizic as they inked French big man Mathias Lessort to a 2-month contract in order to bolster their front court just after capturing the Winner Cup preseason tournament.

The 26-year old Lessort comes over from EuroCup champs Monaco and in 23 games scored 12.5 points and grabbed 6 boards. The Martinique native was selected in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft and has played for Red Star Belgrade, Malaga and Bayern Munich in the past.

Yellow & Blue head coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos spoke about the signing to the official Maccabi website, “We are very happy that we bring one more player to help us now that we start the season. Mathias Lessort is a player that comes to add power to our frontline, after the injury of Ante Zizic. Mathias is an experienced Euroleague player that will adjust fast to the needs of the team. I want to thank our owners that one more time they did their best for the club.”

“I am excited to join Maccabi Tel Aviv and start working”, Lessort said. “I come to help the team with everything I can. It is an honor to join a huge and decorated club in European basketball with great fans like there are in Tel Aviv.”

It’s clear that with this signing Maccabi Tel Aviv is looking to make sure that they get off to a good start in Euroleague play with a pair of home games to begin the campaign against Bayern Munich and Red Star Belgrade. A strong start will be crucial and right after the club took the Winner Cup they were rewarded with a top level player to come in and help out the squad in Zizic’s absence.

Sfairopoulos could have entered the campaign with Jalen Reynolds along with big men Roman Sorkin and Jake Cohen to fill the void. But at this point it was better to not take any unnecessary risks with a youngster and inexperienced Sorkin in Europe and Cohen who is definitely more comfortable in the power forward position in continental action.

Roman Sorkin – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il


That of course didn’t stop the bench boss from talking about how the former Maccabi Haifa and University of Oregon big man Sorkin impressed in the preseason competition dropping 16 points and taking 10 boards in the final, “It’s easier for Roman to adjust as he has experienced in the Israeli league and he will gain confidence in the Euroleague. He needs to learn, improve and play better.”

Sorkin also talked about his initial thoughts while playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv, “I’m very happy that we won and that’s what is most important for the club. It’s great to win and this is my first title in Israel. It’s only the beginning and we are a very talented team. Every player can be the star on any given day.”

Roman Sorkin – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il


The Yellow & Blue newcomer explained as to how he has been able to meld into the team and also show patience, confidence and belief in his own abilities on the court so quickly, “The guys have all spoken to me in the practice and told me take my time. I’m watching video as well and there is so much to learn from the guys whether it’s Derrick Williams or James Nunnally. I’m already learning and taking in so much.”

“I want to always stay positive and believe in myself. I’ll take the opportunity and do the best I can. First is the defensive side and then the offense. We can celebrate today but we have to already begin working on Bayern Munich the next day.”

Keenan Evans – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il


Speaking of defense, Coach Sfairopoulos praised another first year Maccabi player Keenan Evans who has for in almost flawlessly to his mew team after a year with Hapoel Haifa. Evans has looked every bit the part of star in the making on both ends of the floor and it’s the defensive side that Sfairopoulos was most happy about and part of the game that he said Evans has down pat much better than a number of other forts year Maccabi players he’s had in the past.

“I believe a lot in Keenan and that’s why I brought him. His style can change when last year he scored and then he played defense, now it’s defense first and then offense. On the scoresheet he scored 11 points but for me he scored 22 points. He scored 11 points and dropped 11 points off from what Bryon Allen had been scoring. He did an excellent job,” the coach praised.

James Nunnally- Photo Credit: Basket.co.il


And finally a word about the quiet assassin and one whose name has yet to come up in a press conference, James Nunnally. The NBA and Euroleague veteran can absolutely do it all on the court. You need a 3-pointer? No problem. How about a midrange jumper? Sure. Need a rebound? He’ll do that too. This guy is the epitome of a winner and he said so himself while sitting on a park bench when I introduced myself following the game. He wants to win, win trophies, win titles, win games. That’s what he wants to do in Israel. Win, win, win. And that’s what he will do.

Maccabi Tel Aviv has a very good team this season and while no one is putting the cart, winning the Winner Cup and most important showing a togetherness, a passion to play with hustle on the court, with desire on the court and with a love for the game are the perfect ingredients for what could be a fine campaign in front of them.

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