A number of Israel National Basketball Team players have departed the Holy Land and their local clubs to play in France this upcoming campaign. One of them is Itay Segev who recently signed with BCM Gravelines-Dunkerque and featured this past season with Ironi Nahariya where he plied his trade under head coach Danny Franco.
The 6”8 forward had arguably his best year in professional basketball averaging 8.8 points and 6.6 rebounds in over 21 minutes per game for the northern Israeli squad and will look to continue his upward trend in the northern French city.
The Sports Rabbi had the privilege to speak with Olivier Bourgain who serves as the club’s sports director as to the history of the team, their goals for the season ahead and how Segev fits into the team’s plans.
“Gravelines is a team that has been in the country’s first league, the LNB for 25 years it used to be and still is a good team,” began Bourgain. “For many reasons over the last 5 or 6 years we haven’t reached the playoffs. We had a budget to make the playoffs but it just didn’t happen. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic our budget decreased a lot but we are still competitive and ambitious.”
“This season we have a brand new team with new players, new coaches, new trainers and new analysts. We need to have a good season and that is our objective. We’re looking ahead and we’ve got a new direction.”
Bourgain played for eight years with the team between 1988-94, came back in 2001 after playing for a number of other French teams as well as in Italy and Germany. Once his playing days came to an end, he served as sports director for 15 years with second division club Boulogne sur mer and the last two seasons with Limoges who play in the first league.
As Bourgain began to rebuild the squad together with coach Serge Crevecouer, they knew which characteristics they were looking for in players that they wanted to have on their team, “Segev is a special player. Sometimes you pay a player to play defense, some you pay to score and others to create. I spoke to his agent Avi Zilberman and he said when you pay attention to this type of player you know he isn’t the best player, but he brings all of the details in order to be a great team.”
“He can talk in the locker-room, he has a good attitude, he doesn’t care if he scores or not, if he has to he will, but it won’t bother him if he doesn’t. Itay is young and a national team player and he will now get to see another structure of basketball. Itay has all of the physical tools and qualities to be successful in France as the league is very athletic.”
There is no doubt that Segev will be an important piece to the Gravelines puzzle said Bourgain, “Coach Crevecouer joined the team at the end of last season and I like the way he sees basketball from a professional standpoint. He has a nice structure and wants to play and work with his staff and I expect that. He takes responsibility and is smart. His teams play smart basketball with good defense and quality passing.”
Segev was signed back in 2012 by Maccabi Tel Aviv and was loaned to Hapoel Holon as well as Hapoel Gilboa Galil for the first couple of seasons. When the Kfar Tavor native returned to the Yellow & Blue in time for the 2015/16 campaign he experienced some rough years with the club but still managed to win a pair of Israel State Cups and the 2018 league title.
That season was in essence the beginning of the end of Segev’s time with the club as he was named captain at the start of year but eventually gave up the honor later on in the campaign whe he requested to leave the team. In 2018/19 Segev played at Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion before ending up by the Lebanese border for 2019/20.
“It’s not that important to me that he played in the Euroleague,” explained the 51-year old. “I wanted the type of player that could be a captain of Maccabi Tel Aviv, This means a lot to me and I didn’t sign him to be a scoring machine. I brought him to be a glue guy who can be effective in practice and in the games. We need this kind of player. We will work individually with him to improve his game including playing with his back to the basket and his free throws and with time he will be a an even better player.”
One of the most important pieces to a successful athlete is the mental side of the game and that is something that Segev had been working on this past season with Nahariya. Bourgain also understands the necessity for today’s basketball player to be not only prepared physically but mentally as well in order to have the proper balance on and off of the court.
“The mental side of the game is the main thing and it’s the brain that drives everything. You can’t control if you can win or lose but you can control your attitude and that comes from the brain. If you have good balance you can be a good basketball player. I have seen it my entire life and without the mental side a player will just be average and not have the proper focus. Having proper mental balance is part of the success of a player.”
As Segev departs the borders of Israel for the first time in his club career, it seems that he has not only the maturity and physical skills to succeed in France but also has a sports director who understands what the keys will be for the forward thrive and flourish.