With spectacular signings, Hapoel Tel Aviv is making their mark as they head into the new season

Jul 1, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Hapoel Tel Aviv have begun the offseason with one mission in mind, to win as many titles as possible this upcoming season. After falling to Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli league championship series and following a solid EuroCup campaign but saw the Reds come up short to win the competition and punch their ticket to the Euroleague, owner Ofer Yannay and his staff are aiming to make their way to promised land with some exceptional new players signings.

Yannay is without question building the team with big ambitions in mind and has made a monstrous splash by inking a number of top of the line Euroleague players to attain the club’s lofty goals in the shadow of war with Hamas and Hezbollah.

Ofer Yannay – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

However, the first piece of business was to sign a sports director to put together the puzzle for the upcoming season as the team brought in a savvy veteran in Greek George Hinas who had been working with AEK for over a decade.

Hinas studied sports management in Germany and under his watch AEK won the FIBA Champions League once in 2018 and were runners up in 2020, while also winning a pair of Greek Cups while also qualifying for the domestic league playoff finals in 2020 as well.

Under Hinas’s responsibility will be the establishment and development of the club’s professional division and will manage all of the employees related to the those activities including the coaching staff, players, management team, medical staff, scouts and analysts. He will also be in charge of the minor league teams as well as the recruitment of players and following up on players that have been loaned out to other teams.

George Hinas – Photo credit: Dov Halickman

Hinas’s first step was to secure and extend head coach and fellow Greek Stefanos Dedas to a 2-year deal after having taken over from Danny Franco with a few months left in the past season and helped take the Reds to the finals for the club’s second campaign in a row. Dedas, who coached Hapoel Holon back between 2019-2021 was not only familiar with Israel but also fit the team like a glove, so it was a no-brainer for him to continue on with Hapoel Tel Aviv.

His philosophy and instant connection with the club will no doubt be key in seeing the team realize their dreams in what will be a very challenging year ahead especially with the war against Hamas still taking place.

After ensuring that the bench boss was in place Hinas began making his moves which created waves in the country’s basketball sphere.

Joe Ragland

First up was signing veteran star point guard Joe Ragland who played at Hapoel Holon between 2021-2023 and guided the purples to the Israel league championship in 2022 along with being named MVP of the series. This past season, the 34-year old floor general played in Greece with Peristeri where he averaged 12.3 points and dished out 7.3 assists per game. Ragland led the club top the Final 4 of the Basketball Champions League and third place in the Greek League.

Ragland, who was born in the United States, holds Liberian citizenship and is eligible to play for their national team also played with Hapoel Eilat in 2020-21 and will bring a wealth of rich experience, personality and leadership to the Reds.

Hinas then added a huge name to his cadre of imports for the upcoming season in one Johnathan Motley. The 6”9 big man played with Fenerbahce the past two seasons on a team that featured in the Euroleague Final Four this past May. The 29-year old scored 14.5 points and grabbed 4.9 rebounds in the Turkish League while adding 11.2 points and 4.2 boards in the Euroleague where he started 19 games and averaged 18 minutes per contest.

Johnathan Motley – Photo Credit: Euroleague

The American center played in the NBA, where he featured one season with the Dallas Mavericks and two years with the Los Angeles Clippers before embarking on a European career that saw him make his first stop in Russia with Lokomotiv Kuban before joining Fenerbahce.

Motley is a player with a unique set of abilities on both the defensive and offensive sides of the floor and will add strength to the Reds front line.

Ben Bentil was the next player to join Hapoel as the 6”8 power forward/center will join Motley in the paint and will provide some serious inside play for Dedas’s squad. The 29-year old played in the Euroleague with Panathinaikos, Milano and Red Star and won the respective domestic championships with all of them and featured last season in Japan with Gunma Crane Thunders where he averaged 17 points and 5.5 rebounds.

Ben Bentil – Photo credit: Euroleague

In his four seasons in the EuroLeague, he averaged 6 points, 2.8 rebounds and shot 37% from beyond the arc in 15 minutes per game with his best game coming in a Red Star uniform when he scored 18 points against Panathinaikos.

Bentil was born in Ghana and moved to the United States at the age of 15. After playing at Providence College, he was selected 51st overall in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics and in 2017 he signed a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks where he made history by becoming the first Ghanaian to play in the NBA. The big man will be able to provide solid scoring for Dedas with a post up game while also playing terrific defense.

After the Bentil signing, guard Marcus Foster was up next to join the Reds. In the 2019-2020 season, the American guard who played for Hapoel Holon under Coach Dedas provided an impressive average of 20.2 points per game, including a season high of 37 points against Hapoel Jerusalem.

Marcus Foster – Photo credit: BCL

The 29-year old began last season in China but moved to Lithuania in December as Foster helped Rytas Vilnius win the domestic league championship while also capturing the MVP award. The Wichita Falls, Texas native scored 15.6 points and shot 50% from 3-point range.

After his season in Holon, Foster, who is a high level player that combines talent, athleticism and a deep understanding of the game, moved to Panathinaikos where he also played in the Euroleague, and from there moved to Turk Telekom.

In terms of Israelis, Tomer Ginat inked an extension with the club while captain Bar Timor will continue as well. But that’s not where the Sabra contingent ended as Hinas jumped on the opportunity to strengthen that area of his team as well.

Guy Palatin – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

First up was Guy Palatin, the league’s Defensive Player of the Season who helped Kiryat Ata to a surprising year that saw the team play against the Reds in the semifinals. The 23-year old guard grew up in the Hapoel Tel Aviv youth department and then began his professional career playing with Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion, Hapoel Ramat Gan and Hapoel Holon before joining Kiryat Ata this past season.

There’s no question that Guy symbolizes exactly the essence of Hapoel Tel Aviv with his passion for the game, sacrifice, toughness and his winning spirit while also being one of the most promising Israeli players in the league who can play in several positions.

Veteran forward Oz Blayzer will also come on board with the Reds after a pair of seasons with Hapoel Jerusalem. The 31-year old has also played for Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion, Maccabi Haifa and Bnei Herzliya and over the course of 11 seasons has scored 8.3 points per game. Blayzer has made dozens of appearances for the Israel national team and played in the last five years with his teams in the EuroCup, Euroleague and the Basketball Champions League.

Oz Blayzer – Photo credit: Dov Halickman

Blayzer, who grew up in Kfar Tavor, was chosen as the outstanding player in the National Youth League and in 2014 was selected as a Rising Star in the Israeli League and has proven to be a player who can feature on both sides of the court and has achieved success at the highest of levels. He will without question bring his unique personality, toughness and a great desire to win into practice for the Reds.

Meron Ruina is yet another new signing for Hapoel as the 26-year old center played for Hapoel Galil Elyon this past season and averaged 5.1 points and 5.9 rebounds for the club in close to 20 minutes a game.

Born in Finland, Ruina grew up in Moshav Neve Ilan and was part of the Under-20 team that won the 2018 European Championship in Germany as he scored 14 points and grabbed 14 boards in the final before playing professionally with Hapoel Gilboa Galil and Hapoel Eilat.

Miron Ruina – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Finally, perhaps the most exciting signing that Hinas made was bringing home up and coming star Noam Yaacov who played the past two seasons in France with ASVEL Villeurbanne where he featured in the Euroleague this past campaign.

The 19-year old guard will serve as the Israel Under-20 Team’s captain for their upcoming campaign and has already featured for the senior national team as Yaacov, who is considered one of the great talents of Israeli basketball will be a key contributor to Dedas’s team.

Yaacov was born in Denmark and moved to Kibbutz HaOgen in Israel to live with his grandparents when he was 13 years old. He played in Hapoel Emek Hefer’s youth department and was chosen as the outstanding player of the Youth Premier League in the 2020/2021 season after his team won the championship and the cup.

Noam Yaacov – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Immediately at the end of that season, when he was 16.5 years old, Yaacov signed with Villeurbanne and starred for its youth team and at the end of the 2022 season he was chosen as one of the 30 promising young players in the French league. During his first season with the club’s senior team,. Yaacov was loaned to Hapoel Jerusalem for half a season after Noam Dovrat had suffered a serious knee injury.

The starlet is one of the most talented players in Europe and he has a great passion for the game of basketball and a great love for Hapoel Tel Aviv where he will have the opportunity to continue to improve his abilities by playing at the highest levels.

As Hapoel Tel Aviv have almost completed their squad for the upcoming season, they will without a doubt be a team to be reckoned with as they strive to not only capture their first championship in over 50 years but also as they attempt to secure a place in the Euroleague where they would become a second Israeli team in the competition next to Maccabi Tel Aviv.

While the Reds will face a huge challenge to reach their dreams, there’s no question that their owner Ofer Yannay along with the management staff have set their sights high and will give all-comers everything they’ve got to turn into one of Israel’s top teams.

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