1) Maccabi Haifa picked up a huge, huge win over Hapoel Tel Aviv in a game that the Reds should have taken. But the Greens had one Speedy Smith who just sliced and diced his way through the Reds and hit the big cold blooded shot when he needed to. He drained the clock and then let it rip putting a dagger through the hearts of Hapoel fans and knocking them down the standings. I had the opportunity to see Speedy live about 10 days ago against Hapoel Eilat and it was clear that he’s a player, big time. Smith is a product of Louisiana Tech and has played in the G-League, Hungary and Belgium before arriving in Israel for the balance of the 2019/20 season. “Speedy proved himself as one of the leaders on this team not only last game but also his steady performance since he’s gotten here,” explained veteran big man Jerai Grant to The Sports Rabbi. “I think the last game just proved that he has the composure to take the big shots and also help orchestrate the team he’s on. But another under looked fact is that he had 7 assists which shows he’s as unselfish as any player I’ve played with. Whoever nabs him for next season is gonna get a steal.” The Sports Rabbi also spoke to the star of the show, Speedy Smith himself following the game, “I believe coach had a great game plan for tonight’s game. We executed very well on defense. Our team rallied together the whole night. It was amazing to get this win and we will build from here.”
2) Caleb Agada looked as if he was going to have one of those shooting nights that he was going to want to forget. He was about 1/1000000 at the half and anything that went up wasn’t going to come close to finding the bottom of the basket. But then it happened, just like it does for any shooter, the shots began to fall. From deep Agada finished the night 4/6, but from 2, well the 3/17 isn’t going to turn any heads, but it was how he took the bull by the horns in willing his team to the win. 9 boards, 5 steals and drawing 7 fouls while chalking up a 21 efficiency rating did the job for Rami Hadar’s team who had this to say about his guard, “I knew Caleb would be there in the minutes I needed him. Caleb is a serious guy who keeps his emotions in check and although he didn’t open well he got the chance to make it up and he proved it again. Most players would not have been able to control his emotions and wouldn’t have been able to do what he did.” Agada summed up the game, “We showed what we are capable of tonight. We played well together but still got work to do and we’ll be back in the gym tomorrow to fix some issues.” Gotta love a gamer like Caleb and The Sports Rabbi had the chance to host him on the Holy land Hoops Show this week. It’s a MUST LISTEN as he talks about his career and his upbringing from Nigeria to Canada. It’s a fascinating story that you don’t want to miss.
3) Nes Ziona picked up a playoff saving win against Hapoel Eilat after having struggled mightily since the restart of the league. They had been on a brutal downward spiral over the last few games and it looked as if they were becoming the league’s doormats with issues swirling around the team. But just as coach Nadav Zilberstein told us last week when they fell to Hapoel Tel Aviv, that his team still had time to pull it together and come together as a cohesive unit and that’s what they did. Somehow they pulled a rabbit out of the hat and Cameron Oliver led them to the promised land besting a quality Eilat team that had surprised many. The other key for NZ was that Golan Gutt was back in action and Raviv Limonad was able to help provide right veteran leadership that had been lacking.
4) Gilboa Galil is the team to beat so far in the third round of action. The Galilee squad continue to play impressive basketball and now they also have their 4th foreigner in Tim Coleman available. When I saw them play Jerusalem a few weeks ago in an exhibition game, it was clear that they had the ability to play in the Final Four. Some people laughed at the suggestion, but Lior Lubin’s team is looking better and better each and every game. The motor of the crew is Joe Thomasson and I know we’ve spoken about him before, but I will mention him again, he’s good, really good. If you haven’t heard him with The Sports Rabbi check out the interview here! This is what he had to say about yet another win, “Today was a great opportunity for myself and my teammates. It was a fun game to be apart of and I’m glad I could step up big for my team when they needed me most.”
5) I don’t want to dwell too much on the Jerusalem & Rishon game but it was fun to see a number of players who don’t always feature get some playing time. Whether it was Daniel Rosenbaum, Alon Sapir, Dvir Ringvald or Guy Dotan for Jerusalem or Chen Kalfon, Niv Balul or Tal Peled for Rishon it was good to see these guys minutes. Guy Dotan ended with 7 points in 8 minutes of play as he scored his first points for Jerusalem since 2011/12. “It was great to see because these guys work hard,” said Emanuel Terry. “They help the regular players in practice and help us improve and I’m happy for them.” Oded Katash also commented on their play, “It was their opportunity and it’s why they are here to be a part of something bigger. It helps us spread out minutes both in practice and during games and we are happy that they are with us.”
When Maccabi Tel Aviv brought in Sandy Cohen last summer, I tried to find out as much as I could about the youngster who had attended Marquette and Green Bay. We knew he was a great athlete and had tons of potential but we saw very little of it all season as he wasn’t registered to play in the Israeli league as the team was waiting for Cohen to receive citizenship and then be allowed to play domestically as a Sabra. Cohen made his league debut following the break and has shown flashes of brilliance and athleticism that we rarely see here in the Holy Land. Take his alleyoop team up with Deni Avdija for example, it was a thing of beauty. With more time on the court in real game action Cohen will continue to improve. What is his limit? Looks like the sky the way he flies! Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos had this to say about his new/old player, “Sandy is a very talented and a promising player. He needs to get more experience and needs to learn how to play in Europe. He has great skills and if he will work and stay humble he will improve.”