Last season, Maccabi Tel Aviv signed Jalen Reynolds in place of an injured Tarik Black and made his Yellow & Blue debut at Zalgiris in a 73-68 loss just as the calendar year flipped to 2020. After having played in a dozen games under Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos the big man averaged 5.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in shade under 14 minutes per game before the campaign came to an unexpected end due to the coronavirus.
Now, ten months later, the Xavier product returns to Yad Eliyahu with a surprising Bayern Munich team that may be 1-1 but had been good enough to be 2-0, “There’s many people who will say this and say that but at the end of the say we’re the ones putting in the work in and it’s about who will play the hardest. We’re focusing on one day at a time. We’re the underdog and we will keep fighting like pit bulls.”
One of the reasons Bayern has had a huge turnaround from last season is due to the hiring of Andrea Trinchieri, who is considered by many to be one of the game’s brilliant tacticians. So far Reynolds has hit double digits in points in both Euroleague games plus has recorded a double-double against Milano, “He’s a very intelligent coach and he knows basketball. It’s almost as if you think you’re right but you’re wrong. He knows where you need to be and you have to know how to take the criticism. He also hates when you apologize! I am starting to buy in to what he is selling. I keep my mouth shut and I’m doing what he wants. Defense first.”
Reynolds began the 2019/20 season in China and then headed to the G-League and the Stockton Kings, but when the phone rang in December, the Detroit native hopped back on the plane to the Holy Land.
“Coming to Maccabi I knew that it was a winning team and that I had to be ready for what was coming. I knew that I was going to be put in the fire but I learnt a lot and helped keep the tradition alive with a great fan base. That was the key for me to make it through the season, the fans.”
Maccabi were clicking on all cylinders just as the season shut down and many expected the Yellow & Blue to take a run for European glory, “The sky was the limit and I think we would have won. We had some good players with A-Jax (Aaron Jackson) and Amar’e Stoudemire and I knew what type of game I had to bring. They understood how I played and the got me the ball in the right position.”
Reynolds had the chance to get a look at one of basketball’s rising young stars in Deni Avdija who is slated to be a lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft, “Deni is in one word dedicated, first guy and last guy in the gym. Great passer and great teammate, the sky’s the limit for him.”
A former teammate that Reynolds will facing is Othello Hunter who he certainly know very well from their battles in the paint in practice, but this time is will be for real, “He’s a very talented player and you can’t teach size. We know how each other play and it will be a battle and battle of the boards. But I’m focusing on one thing and as a team we have to stay together to get the win.”
However, as Reynolds mentioned he will now be an ex-Maccabi player plying his trade for his new club Bayern Munich, “It’s definitely big for me as a former player at Maccabi. But it’s a business and the team has a very special place in my heart.”
As important as the fans were for Reynolds when he was a Maccabi player, will the lack of supporters play to Bayern’s favor? “It’s unfortunate that there will be no fans but we have to perform because this is our job. That’s what we are getting paid for. Both teams are going to bring it.”
“Two good teams with multiple talent on each side. You’ve got to have that hunger and everybody is on the same page. Everybody cheers everybody else on and the main key is how unselfish the team is and how everyone touches the ball.”
COVID-19 has been ravaging the planet and the virus has caused chaos to almost every industry including the basketball world, “I think it’s very unfortunate but all we really know is basketball and that’s all I know what to do. We need to find a solution to the problem. Maybe the bubble and a tournament. We will have to wait and see what happens.”
Travel around Europe has also been challenging for Reynolds as well, “It’s been hectic and a big hassle trying to travel and taking the COVID tests. There’s so much confusion and it’s a difficult time. But the biggest surprise to this season so far is that we are still playing and most importantly stay safe and COVID free.”