Michael’s Rolling Along At Milano: The former Maccabi guard catches up with The Sports Rabbi

Feb 17, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv visit Milano in Euroleague action on Thursday (21:45 Israel time) in Italy as they look to get back to business in continental play after a few weeks off. The Yellow & Blue enter the matchup with a 10-12 and are in 13th place while Ettore Messina’s squad sit in 3rd place with a 15-8 record.

Milano’s stalwart guard Michael Roll featured for Maccabi between 2017-19 and was a fan favorite for his determination, hard work and ability to always get the most out of his teammates. Always a positive and professional, Roll has played an important role with the club playing with its second unit helping the team to a very successful season to date both domestically and in Europe.

Michael Roll – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Ahead of Maccabi’s clash with Milano, Roll spoke to The Sports Rabbi about a myriad of topics as we look at why the club has been super effective this campaign on the court across the continent.

“It’s always fun to have a chance to play Maccabi as I have friends on the team. They are a good team and excited all the way to play them. But I’m not treating it any differently and just like any other normal game that I’ll go out and play.”

Michael Roll – Photo Credit: Euroleague.net

After coming off a disappointing 12-16 season last year, which started 7-2, but ended miserably going 5-14 when the campaign was halted due to the coronavirus, the Italian club made some substantial personnel changes that has helped them become one of the most dangerous clubs in the Euroleague.

“It’s hard to pinpoint one specific reason as to why, but it’s the collective group of guys. Everyone is a winner and we all work hard everyday. We are trying to improve and with the talent we have anything is possible. As for winning it all, I think it’s possible, it’s just a matter of doing it.”

Ettore Messina – Photo Credit: Euroleague.net

Now in his second season with the club, Coach Ettore Messina who had served as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich between 2014-2019 and is also a four time Euroleague champion, brings a wealth of knowledge to the team.

“Coach Messina continues to reiterate his great habits as a fabulous communicator who is always concerned about his players personal lives first, checking in with us. On the court everyone knows how he wants us to excel and he continuously puts us in the position to do so.”

Gigi Datome – Photo Credit: Euroleague.net

This campaign sees a number of new faces on the squad which has changed up the chemistry and led to the team’s success. With Kyle Hines, Gigi Datome, Malcolm Delaney and Kevin Punter all playing key roles with Milano, Roll explained what each one of these stars has to offer to club.

“Kyle Hines’s IQ level is through the roof and his skills for an undersized center is just tremendous. He has great hands, knows how to be in tech correct positions and is an expert in doing things the correct way. Gigi Datome is a winner with great habits and knows how to get the job done, his shooting ability is absolutely amazing.”

Malcolm Delaney – Photo Credit: Euroleague.net

“Malcolm Delaney is great on the court as to how he communicates and is very unselfish. He’s a proven winner and it’s a pleasure playing with him. As for Kevin Punter he is a great scorer and can do it in so many different ways. His length allows him to shoot a nice shot and also can get by defenders. It’s nice to have him on the team.”

Due to Milano’s depth, Roll’s statistics have gone down a bit this season but his production has remained roughly the same. However, he’s more than happy with the current situation as the club just keeps on winning and “rolling” along, “The stats aren’t the same but in terms of efficiency and how we are doing when I am on the court if it was translated to 40 minutes the production would be there. We have so many good players on the team and I am on the 2nd unit where we come in and change the pace and pick it up for the first unit. We’re in first place in the Italian league, we just won the Italian Cup and we are in good position in the Euroleague. I am into winning and I am happy about it.”

Deni Avdija in his first game with Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Hapoel Eilat September 2017 – Dov Halickman Photography

Roll was teammates with a young Deni Avdija while they were both with Maccabi Tel Aviv and although he hasn’t followed him game by game he is well aware of what the Israeli sensation can offer to the Washington Wizards and the NBA, “I do know he does produce and he will be great in the league especially with his work ethic and attributes. I am happy for him.”

As for Avdija’s teammate Russell Westbrook, who Roll played with at UCLA, he’s sure that he will be a terrific influence on the 20-year old, “He will share his experiences and there will be plenty of things that Deni can take away. Russell has done things in the NBA that some can only dream of.”

Michael Roll – Photo Credit: Euroleague.net

Speaking of dreaming, while Westbrook has won an MVP award, Roll would love to be able to enjoy the title of Euroleague champion and perhaps, just perhaps this will be the year, “It’s a dream and why you sacrifice so much playing over in Europe. You work so hard and to hoist the Euroleague trophy would solidify that even more.”

As for a final message, Roll still remembers the Maccabi fans who always showered him with love, “They are great fans and I miss them. I wish them the best, expect for when we face Maccabi.”

Michael Roll – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

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