“We are thinking about next season” Sfairopoulos and Maccabi are already planning ahead as they ready for EFES

Mar 15, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv welcomes Anadolu EFES in Euroleague action on Tuesday at Yad Eliyahu as the yellow-and-blue will try to get back onto the winning track after last week’s loss at Panathinaikos. EFES enters the contest with 7 straight wins as Ergin Ataman’s squad will look to continue to improve on their 18-10 record good for 4th place while Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s team sits at 11-16 in 14th place.

With elimination from playoff contention at this point just mathematical, Maccabi will try to finish off their campaign’s final 7 games as best as possible and fight for pride and the club as the season comes closer to its end. “We need to be very aggressive and fight hard for the entire game and for every ball,” stated Sfairopoulos. “We have to be ready to disorganize their game and be smart as to how we attack them. They are talented and are playing like last year. We have a big challenge they are in their best shape and we want to show that we are a fighting team.”

Ioannis Papapetrou – Photo Credit: Panathinaikos

There’s no question that after last week’s disastrous performance in Athens, the players and staff want to make up for disappointing their fans and now full well that they can play better and this time around will have the crowd support backing them as well.

“It’s good that there will be 1,000 fans to support us and they will push the players,” the yellow-and-blue bench boss stated. “We didn’t like how we played the last Euroleague game and our goal is to win as many games at the end and then we will see if it’s enough or not, probably not. We want to play with dignity until the end.”

Dragan Bender – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Dragan Bender who played one of his better games of the season this past week against Nes Ziona in Israeli league action spoke about what type of challenge EFES presents to his team, “They’re in a really good place together now and play at a very high level. They have good guards and it will be challenge but we are playing at home in front of our fans and that will give us some juice.”

“It’s going to be difficult,” explained Scottie Wilbekin who looked to have gotten back onto the swing of things last game as well against Nes Ziona after a few weeks nursing an injury. “We will have to do it as a team after EFES have won 7 in a row. They are one of the hottest teams in the Euroleague and we will have to limit them. I hope we can execute and take advantage of a close game and get a win here at home.”

Scottie Wilbekin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

While Maccabi looks to finish off a campaign that went wrong from the get go, they are already looking at next season and how to plan going forward for 2021/22. Wilbekin explained the challenges of having played almost non-stop for two years after the Israeli league restarted last summer, “It kind of makes the season feel longer and that this season is part of last season. I’m hoping that everything goes well this season and it doesn’t have to be extended where it will keep the American players away from home. This situation also led to a higher chance to getting injured and players are more fatigued easily.”

“We had a lot of problems with players injured this season,” Bender said about the season to date. “The coronavirus affected the players after a long season. I was out 5-6 months myself but we are trying to fight each and every game. We had key players missing at the start of the season.״

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

As for next season, Sfairopoulos hinted that Maccabi will be underway with their plans w=very soon if not already, “Right now we are focussing on the games and as coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv I will do our best to fight for all of the games in the Euroleague and we have to be ready to play the Israeli league games and State Cup. If everything goes well we will have a completely different way to prepare next season and it’s too early to take final decisions for next season. We are still alive and we want to focus more on the job on the court rather than off of the court.

“We are thinking about next season but we still don’t know about the coronavirus and the elections. I’m half Israeli maybe the next time you will let me vote also.”

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