“The philosophy is to always have the best Israeli players” Maccabi Tel Aviv opens up the 21/22 campaign

Aug 30, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv officially opened training camp on Monday as they prepare for the 21/22 season in earnest as their first Euroleague game is set for September 30th. To kick off the new campaign, the yellow-and-blue held a special press conference where not only were the players introduced for the first time and where Chairman Shimon Mizrachi, Head Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos and General Manager Nikola Vujcic addressed the assembled media, but where the club’s new uniforms manufactured by Puma were unveiled.

Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Mizrachi began the proceedings by looking ahead to the new challenge ahead, but one that is very familiar to the defending champions, “Our goals have never changed; to win the local titles and to get to the latter stages of the Euroleague. Due to the corona we didn’t get to where we needed to be and we lost some games by a few points last season. This year we have over 9,000 season ticket holders and we are hopeful that there will be no issues as the fans will play a factor for the success of our team.”

Sfairopoulos who will begin his fourth season behind the bench for Maccabi will have a new look squad with some holdovers, but all and all the head coach is content with what he has to work with for the upcoming campaign, “We are very happy to start the new season and I want to thank the effort from management to rebuild the team and bring in new blood to Maccabi. I am very content as to how we built the team and strengthened the roster. I want to say less and work harder on the court and adjust to the new way of playing. We have new players and we have to get ready for the Euroleague which begins in a month. We had to delay the preseason due to the quarantine and that was the only issue that we experienced ahead of the season. We are looking forward to having our fans with us and that will help us this season.”

Ioannis Sfaripoulos – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

The coach also went on to talk about some of the changes and issues that the team is facing, “Don’t expect from the first game that we will be ready to play 100%. Why? Because we will only practice for two weeks and today will be the first day that I will have all the roster together. For sure the style of our play will be adjusted to the talent and abilities of each player. We will just adjust tactically accordingly. There is no question that we have quality and we have to find chemistry to reach our goal. We need to build this and it’s not easy to create a solid squad.”

Unlike last season when COVID-19 ravaged the continent, Maccabi was unable to get in their usual preseason training camp but this year things have moved more back to normal as the team will head out of the country for a number of exhibition games to prepare for the challenges ahead. This will make a ton of difference explained Sfairopoulos, “It’s very important that we will participate in the preseason games and I want to thank the Ministry of Sport and the Health Ministry for allowing us to participate in these games as they are important to look at the details as to where we need to improve. They will help us play better when we begin the new season in a month.”

Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

The club has added a number of intriguing players such as former NBA star Derrick Williams, Euroleague stalwart James Nunnally as well as Keenan Evans who was one of the best players in the Israeli league last season with Hapoel Haifa. While Maccabi was able to add the Israeli MVP in Iftach Ziv along with bringing back Jake Cohen and bringing in potential laden Roman Sorkin, the club lost arguably its most promising Israeli in Yovel Zoosman who decided to sign with ALBA Berlin.

“This is part of the sports and everybody is free to decide what is best for him,” Sfairopoulos said. “It’s true that when I came to Maccabi I I gave him a different role but he he decided to leave. There are no hard feelings.”

In addition to Maccabi not being able to hold onto Zoosman there are number of leading Israelis who are also not currently with the club whether it’s Deni Avdija who is playing in the NBA, Yam Madar who is now playing with Partizan Belgrade as well as Tomer Ginat and others. This is a challenge for Maccabi explained Vujcic as they are always in the business of having the best Sabras available.

“The philosophy is to always have the best Israeli players and some players we want to keep but they have different goals. We have established an academy and we have players who are developing and some who have left will come back. We have to continue to develop the players to our standards and it’s hard to produce high level players. There is a lack of practice facilities and requirements and we our doing our best to manage this. All of the Israeli players that are up to Maccabi standards will be here.”

The general manager understands how critical the fans will be for the club this season as they look to get back to the top of Europe after a number of seasons where they struggled primarily due to the pandemic. But now things seem to be getting back on track Vujcic stated, “Winning is the goal every year. With the fans back we will look at how we can win games at home and we can always compete with the Maccabi spirit as we have done through history. I am happy as to how we built the team for this season. We had to take a step back last year with the budget due to Corona and this year we made the improvements for the team. This year the Euroleague will be very competitive and we are making the step up this year.”

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