Hapoel Jerusalem have made a number of personnel moves over the past few months to strengthen the squad. One of those additions was Shelvin Mack who signed with the club in January after starting the season with Milano in Italy.
After coming off a terrific league performance against Hapoel Eilat this past Sunday, Mack, who didn’t play for the Reds in the State Cup will get his chance to star on the big stage when Oded Katash’s squad begin their Champions League Round of 16 best of 3 playoff series on Wednesday against Peristeri from Greece.
Ahead of clash, Mack spoke to The Sports Rabbi about a myriad of topics from Kobe Bryant, Milan and having to sit out Jerusalem’s State Cup victory due to the limitations on how many foreigners can be made available for Israeli games, a restriction that isn’t in place in European competition.
“It’s a little different but it feels good to be on a winning team and with a winning organization. I see the work that the guys have put in before I got here. It’s exciting and I hope we can build on it and continue to grow.”
Due to the rules where only five foreigners can be dressed, Mack was the odd man out for those crucial contests that saw the Reds lift he State Cup. However, he also knows that there are still two competitions that he can make his mark in, the Champions League and the Israel Winner League. His has he been handling the situation? “Just by being a pro. You got to build habits and they might show today or they might show in June. So I will continue to build my habits. There are some games I’ll play and some I won’t but don’t get discouraged and continue to work. When you build the right habits you’ll have a great foundation for later in the season in the games you are playing and you have something to depend on.”
One of the greatest parts about Hapoel Jerusalem is how great the staff is when welcoming the foreign players who are made to feel at home from the second they sign with club, making that the easiest part of their transition, “Adapting to the organization has been great. They welcomed me with open arms and my teammates are great letting me come in and playing my game right away. I’m enjoying it and loving it. It’s also great for my family that are adjusting well as we take it one day at a time.”
And the hardest part about coming to Israel in the middle of the campaign? “The most difficult part of making they transition is not playing. Other than that it’s been great. But I understand the situation and other than that I really have nothing to complain about.”
Jerusalem were able to sign Mack after the guard was made expendable by Milan after just a few months into the season, “I got hurt early on and there were a lot of different changes. It takes time to adapt and I had done well in the preseason when we won about 20 games and beat Euroleague teams. But then I got hurt the second game of the season and they signed some players and it was kind of hard adjusting and getting back. Overall it was a great experience and I can always learn from it.”
Was there any frustration or tension with Milano Coach Ettore Messina? “I don’t think there was any frustration. He just had to get some things done this year especially being the Head Coach and the President. Just time wasn’t on our side with the situation.”
The Lexington, Kentucky native arrived in Israel’s capital city with a resume that included close to 500 NBA games for a number of teams from the Atlanta Hawks to the Utah Jazz and certainly had his fair share of highlights but one stuck out in his mind, “Building relationships. I talk to those guys all the time and we have a group message especially with the Atlanta Hawks. We all have kids now and it’s great to hang out at barbecues and that’s the biggest thing I got from the NBA. Basketball is basketball. But the relationships we have will last forever.”
While playing in the World’s Beat League, the Butler University product was fortunate to have worked under many great coaches, “I was lucky. Every coach I had was a coach of the year or a great coach. I have to say all of them impacted me in certain ways whether it was Coach Mike Budenholzer, Kenny Atkinson who is in Brooklyn now or Quin Snyder and even Taylor Jenkins who is now the Head Coach at Memphis. The Hawks staff was probably one of the best that was ever put together. Add in Neven Spahija who was at Maccabi, it was a crazy staff that we had. I had some great coaches and I saw it all and the level of excellence that we need to be at.”
Jenkins today is the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, one of the youngest bench bosses in the league, “He’s a great guy and a players coach. He knows how to relate to his players and it’s easy to want to play hard for him on the court. He’s been put in the situation to be successful.”
Kobe Bryant was a very influential to many players and Mack isn’t an exception, “Kobe was my favorite player growing up and that’s one of the reasons why I wore number 8. It’s very hard for something like that to happen especially with his daughter and wife. That I what I think about most especially with me having a daughter and wife. We loved him as a basketball player but he was much bigger than that.”