The Sports Rabbi’s Israel Basketball First Round Awards

Dec 28, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Just as the first round of 11 games comes to a conclusion, The Sports Rabbi handed out his awards in various categories to the best of the best as well as the biggest disappointment thus far this season.

Retin Obasohan – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Player of the Round – Retin Obasohan, Hapoel Jerusalem
The Belgian guard without question is the best of the best after the first 11 games in league play helping Hapoel Jerusalem to first place with a 9-2 record. Obasohan leads the league in points with 20 per game, efficiency rating at 24.2 and in plus/minus with a +136. After being brought in to the Reds over the summer by now departed coach Oren Amiel, “Oba” as he is called, has continued his fine play by also shooting 48.8% from deep going 20/41 from beyond the arc along with scoring 20 points a game, pulling down 4.8 rebounds, dishing out 4.9 assists and also drawing 7.5 fouls per game. The one moment in time that stands out from the first round was his most recent, when he took the ball and powered to the hoop with under a minute left against Rishon Le’Zion to break a 69-69 tie and ensure that Jerusalem would win the game.

Nimrod Levi – Photo Credir:

Israeli Player of the Round – Nimrod Levi, Hapoel Galil Elyon
There were questions abound as to why Nimrod Levi would sign with a newly promoted team and what was he thinking going so far up north where the only nothing around to keep him busy would be the crickets. However, that’s Nimord Levi. Always looking for the most of exotic of places to play his game and doing what he does best in those locations, play winning basketball and make a difference for his team while playing with the highest level of confidence. Levi is scoring 13 points a game while grabbing 7.6 boards.

First Team Starting 5 of the Round

Retin Obasohan, Hapoel Jerusalem

Nimrod Levi, Hapoel Galil Elyon

Chinanu Onuaku – Photo Credit:

Chinanu Onuaku, Bnei Herzliya
The Big Man may have the funniest free throw shot with the old fashioned underhanded Rick Barry-esque shot, but that certainly doesn’t make a difference for Onuaku who has helped Bnei Herzliya find its way into the league’s top four teams. The Louisville product has been the anchor on Oren Aharoni’s team with 14.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists and has definitely earned the nickname “Chief” from his teammates.

Chris Johnson – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Chris Johnson, Hapoel Holon
There’s no question who the heart and soul of Hapoel Holon is as veteran swingman Chris Johnson continues to be a one man wrecking crew. There is never a doubt as to which player will go at 150%, 100% of the time because Johnson doesn’t know any other way to play the game. Whether it’s his airtight defense, clutch scoring, veteran leadership or all around understanding of the game, Maurizio Buscaglia’s team would not be in the top four without CJ and his 13.2 points and 5.7 assists.
פרנק בארטלי

Frank Bartley – Photo Credit:

Frank Bartley, Nes Ziona
There is a reason why Nes Ziona won five games in a row after opening the season with 3 losses and that’s because Frank Bartley has been putting up some serious numbers on the scoresheet. But it’s not just his scoring where he clocks in at 19.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists a game, it’s his way to mesh in perfectly with Diante Garrett and Tim Soares to help lead Lior Lubin’s squad to a 6-5 record. If Nes Ziona has designs on continuing to move up in the standings, Bartley will be the engine behind that as the club relies on his play game in and game out.

Second Team Starting 5 of the Round
Chris Babb, Bnei Herzliya
Bryon Allen, Hapoel Eilat
J’Covan Brown, Hapoel Tel Aviv
Diante Garrett, Nes Ziona
Dererk Pardon, Hapoel Beer Sheva

Israeli Players Starting 5 of the Round
Roie Huber, Hapoel Eilat
Bar Timor, Hapoel Tel Aviv
Rafi Menco, Hapoel Holon
Nimrod Levi, Hapoel Galil Elyon
Idan Zalmanson, Hapoel Tel Aviv

Rookie of the Round
Gaby Chachashvili, Hapoel Galil Elyon

Yotam Halperin – Photo Credit:

Coach of the Round
Yotam Halperin, Hapoel Jerusalem
Oren Amiel began the season on the sidelines for the Reds with a 2-1 record but that coupled with their play in the Champions League along with the general uneasiness around the team, led to his dismissal before the season even hit October 31st. Down from the front office stepped the club’s Sports Director who had never quite coached a team of adult professionals and quickly ran off a 7-1 record along with punching Jerusalem’s ticket to the Play-In Round in continental play to the delight of the fans and management. Credit has to go to all parties to turn around a season that looked as if it was going down the tubes very, very fast as management recognized that a move had to be made in order to save the campaign and for that they must be credited.

Team of the Round

Bnei Herzliya – Photo Credit:

Bnei Herzliya
There’s no question that Bnei Herzliya’s head coach Oren Aharoni deserves a ton of credit for taking his team to tie for 2nd place in league play with a terrific 7-4 record. But the entire team deserves kudos for making this happen. From general manager Zufer Avdija (and his crazy outfits) for assembling a team worthy of competing at the top of Israeli basketball once again to ownership for allowing the team to play 5 foreign players just like Maccabi, Jerusalem and Holon. The moves that were made prior to the season is why they are where they are right now. Better to play with 5 imports and pay the extra tax in order to give yourself a better chance to collect wins than play with only 4 and struggle all year long and then battle it out in order to not be relegated like what almost happened last season. It’s always worth putting in the extra investment on the earlier side in order to not have to pay a much higher price later on.

Disappointment of the Round

Maccabi Tel Aviv – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Maccabi Tel Aviv
With a 7-4 record and a share of second place with Holon and Herzliya, Maccabi is nowhere near where they want to be, expect to be or need to be. The last time the yellow-and-blue had a record of 7-4 after 11 games in Israeli league action was back in 2013/14 when they ended up not only winning the championship and State Cup, but also the coveted Euroleague title. To think that David Blatt was almost fired just around this time of year, back 8 seasons ago is truly unfathomable but that was certainly the case. However, Ioannis Sfairopoulos who is the current Maccabi coach doesn’t have the same quality of roster that Blatt had back then and the team also wasn’t in the midst of a 7 game continental losing streak. Times have changed and unlike Jerusalem who not only brought in a new coach but also made savvy and swift roster moves to correct their errors from the summer, Maccabi has done absolutely nothing. The once proud franchise who have already lost to Hapoel Gilboa Galil, Nes Ziona, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Holon almost fell to Galil Elyon, Beer Sheva and Eilat. Think about that, Maccabi could have theoretically been 4-7(!). The yellow-and-blue brass have a lot of soul searching to do as teams across Europe and Israel look at how to better their teams while they stand pat and do nothing, at least as of yet.

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