Yaacov debut, Gilboa & Eilat struggles, Haifa’s challenge, Beer Sheva moving on up – Starting 5: Round 15’s Intriguing stories

Jan 30, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

The Sports Rabbi took a look back at all of the Israel Basketball League Round 15 action from Noam Yaacov’s debut to Gilboa Galil and Eilat’s struggles plus Hapoel Beer Sheva and much more!

1) Hapoel Jerusalem easily disposed of Hapoel Eilat down south by the Red Sea but the real story coming out of the game was the Israeli league debut of 18-year old Noam Yaacov who dished out 7 assists and added a 3-pointer along with 4 rebounds in 21 minutes of play for the Reds. Yaacov who is loaned out by ASVEL Villeurbanne to Aleksandar Dzikic’s squad for the balance of the season has all the tools to be a star there’s no question about that. He’s fearless and doss not hesitate one ounce on the floor. He knows what he wants to do and how he will do it. His court vision is second to none and has shown that he can dish out the ball where he wants and when he wants.

It’s clear that his teammates are confident in his play as they have shown total faith and trust in Yaacov during the 3 minutes he played in the State Cup against Hapoel Tel Aviv as well as in the 21 minutes in the win over Hapoel Eilat. The question is why didn’t Dzikic play him at least a few minutes last week in Champions League action against Dijon at home. While the bench boss explained that he didn’t want to throw him into the fire going one in one with David Holston, which of course is a legitimate reason without a doubt, this writer would have at least tried something different in a game that Jerusalem was continuously trying themselves out of a hole.

Noam Yaacov – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

Brandon Brown has yet to show the play that was expected from him. Yes it was clear that it would take him time to get into the swing of things but he has been underwhelming to date and maybe, just maybe, Yaacov should get some of those minutes against Hapoel Holon in what is a must win in BCL play. It’s understandable that Dzikic wants to protect Yaacov and that he would want to go with a veteran guard, but as Yaacov keeps showing that he can handle what has been thrown his way so far, then why not at least give it a try and give him a look?

Ariel Beit Halachmi – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

2) It’s hard to believe that Hapoel Gilboa Galil has lost 11 games in a row, but yet that’s what it is. Ariel Beit Halachmi recently took over for Rami Hadar and without question has his work cut out for him. In a 96-89 loss to Hapoel Holon, there were sparks from the Galilee squad with newcomer Tony Carr scoring 24 points and Payton Willis checking in with 19 points. There is still plenty to do but the bench boss can only make one more change with its imports and will need to find more consistent play from the Israelis. Zuf Ben Moshe, Amit Suss and Meron Ruina have been more off than on all season long and with a record of 2-13 they’ve got to be better. Are there options out there that can improve the team? For sure and Beit Halachmi’s got to find them and figure out how to squeeze the lemon dry.

Maurizio Buscaglia – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

3) Eilat is just one game better than Gilboa and sit at 3-12 with Maurizio Buscaglia taking over the reins just a couple of weeks ago. The Italian has his work cut out for him as well and he’s already starting to make moves by registering 5 imports and signing big man Mangok Mathiang to bolster the Red Sea side’s presence in the paint. There are definitely some players who will be heading out of the resort town as the coach has some moves to make as it looked like some of his current players just folded up like a cheap suit on the defensive side against Jerusalem. Buscaglia has more room to move than Beit Halachmi and it certainly looks like the relegation race may go right down to the wire with these two teams.

Sharon Drucker – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

4) “We are playing as much as a team like Maccabi Tel Aviv, but we are not Maccabi Tel Aviv,” Haifa coach Sharon Drucker began. “We play a number of times a week and there is a mental and physical combination that we are trying to overcome and play the best that we can.” Those are very true words from Drucker as his team has been playing in the FIBA Europe Cup this season as well as the Israeli league while only using 4 imports during domestic play and after their loss to Hapoel Beer Sheva you can understand where the coach is coming from. That’s no easy task especially when you are not a wealthy club and one that has a multitude of players who can come in and replace others due to injury. Israeli Spencer Weisz is out, Devonte Upson is done, Jalen Jones was let go and Xeyrius Williams just played his first game. Not ideal. A team like Maccabi is 14-15 deep and can have the next man up methodology working for them. That is not the case at Hapoel Haifa who have expended plenty of energy and effort in Europe this season. With the State Cup coming up against Hapoel Jerusalem, they will have a tough hill to climb without a doubt. It won’t be easy to say the least. Haifa is at a crossroads right now and they are just really thin to be able to take the big step forward. Can they increase their budget, now or next season? That remains to be seen.

Lior Lubin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

5) Hapoel Beer Sheva on the other hand are now 8-7 and in 5th place just one game behind Hapoel Jerusalem. Yes, you read right. Somehow, a Beer Sheva team that was struggling mightily over the first couple of months have come on strong with Lior Lubin finding the right recipe for success. Since the addition of Greg Whittington, the southern Reds have been heading north. But that’s not the only reason. They are getting solid play from Egor Koulechov who has been playing his best basketball in quite some time as he has been given freedom and has the faith in the staff. Another reason to their success is that they are also playing in Europe but in the Balkan League where they are one of the best teams, so they are winning, not expending the energy that a team would in the Europe Cup plus perhaps most important of all the guys are jelling together on the road. Beer Sheva has a date at Maccabi next week and that will no doubt be a difficult game for them, but if Efiyani can continue to work his magic and the rest of the squad can step up, well them who knows.

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