Maccabi Tel Aviv stars sum up challenging 23/24 campaign

Jun 18, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv wrapped up their 57th championship after defeating Hapoel Tel Aviv 82-74 in the rubber match of a best-of-three series that saw an emotional rollercoaster of a season come to a conclusion.

Following the game, The Sports Rabbi spoke to a number of the yellow-and-blue players from Wade Baldwin to Tamir Blatt to Rafi Menco as Maccabi will head into an offseason of uncertainty with a number of players already indicating that they will depart the club.

Wade Baldwin – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

The first of those players is superstar guard Wade Baldwin who announced after the game that his contract which still had another year on it would be terminated, but leaving the country comes with a heavy heart and mixed feelings due to the challenges that everyone had faced since the Hamas attacks on October 7th which turned the nation upside down.

“Everybody did things the right way and I helped change the culture a little bit here in Maccabi from when I first got here there was trouble in the locker room, there was a lot that was going on. We defined the culture here for 2 years.”

Effects of the war:
“The war was very difficult. You’re only seeing your family 2 times a week. Some guys on the team didn’t get to see their families all year, some of their people are back home, some were staying in Serbia. It was tough year for everyone individually but the ultimate goal was to win basketball games and that’s what we did this year, we won a lot of basketball games.”

Final thoughts:
“I want to say thank you for the last 2 years. This is the club that when I first came to Olympiacos and I played in Maccabi I said this is the club i want to be at. Three years later I was here and my wish came true. I got to share a backcourt with Lorenzo Brown and it’s been everything. A great two years. Unfortunately the situation is the situation and we got to take a business approach and I got to protect my family. 2-3 days out the week seeing my family, I’ll lose everything if I do that.”

Jake Cohen with The Sports Rabbi – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Jake Cohen
“I got a lot of stuff going on right now. I feel really happy that we finished with a title. It was amazing. We fought through all year. We fought through tonight also. There was a lot of balagan around. I have a lot to say about all that stuff but this isn’t the time for that right now. I just want to celebrate with my teammates and be happy because we deserve it right now.”

Josh Nebo – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Josh Nebo
“It feels great. It’s amazing to be able to play with these guys and play in front of these fans and to be able to do it two years in a row. I’m really grateful.”

Playing through adversity:
“At the end of the day it’s just basketball, so 5-on-5 all the extra stuff is what it is. We just got to focus on basketball and that’s what we did. It feels great, it’s been a long season.”

Bonzie Colson – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Bonzie Colson
“It feels good, it’s a special moment for everybody, the organization, the team just what we’ve gone through. It was memorable and to be able to win the championship here with all the adversity shows the type of group we are the type of character of the players, the organization, the coaches. We’re happy to do it in front of our crowd.”

Special group:
“We have a special group and within our group we have great leaders and no matter what we wanted to win. Like I said a lot of the guys came back last year had a taste of winning. We wanted to win it again, we wanted to go back-to-back. We wanted to make the Euroleague Final 4 obviously that didn’t happen but we wanted to make sure that through all the BS going on throughout everything, the ups and downs, tough times, we wanted to win this championship and we did it in front of our crowd with the best fans in the world.”

Next season:
“Maccabi is one of the best organizations in the world and were happy. As for next season, I mean we’ll see. I mean I’ve been saying the same thing, I’m focusing on the now and enjoying the moment. Maccabi has given me the opportunity to do what I love at a high level here in Euroleague and it’s a blessing. So we’ll see what happens.”

Tamir Blatt and Rafi Menco – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Tamir Blatt
“Amazing feeling. All of us went through so much this season and we really deserve it. I’m so happy for everybody. It feels amazing up until now. I only won the cup so now I won the championship to end the season and it feels amazing. It’s something that we wanted, so we really wanted it, we wanted to win this championship and we did it and I’m so proud of everybody here.”

Rafi Menco
“It’s great. We went through a crazy journey as a team over the last 2 years and mainly this year with everything happening in the country. I’m very happy. The title is also in the midst of a lot of sadness with the things that the country is going through and we won’t forget about anyone. It gives us a lot of proportion. We had to go through so many things like everyone else in the country. I think we deserved to finish the season with the championship and that’s exciting.”

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