Starting 5: Deni Avdija? Nope, Noam Dovrat! D’Angelo Harrison & Coach Guy Goodes talk Dovrat and hear from Evan Bruinsma, Tony Gaffney and Deividas Sirvydis! Plus Akil Mitchell & Jordan Davis are all on tap for Gameday 25!

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Plenty of action in Israeli Basketball on Gameday 25 as Noam Dovrat, Eran Bruinsma, Jordan Davis and Akil Mitchell all feature in today’s Starting 5!

Usually I’ve got something to say about Deni Avdija. Well, today I’ll take this space and use it for the next star of Israeli basketball, Noam Dovrat. Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion’s 17-year old guard is growing up right before our very eyes. I’ve been able to watch him play numerous times this season whether it has been in the domestic league or the EuroCup where he played against the likes of Milos Teodosic and Bologna in 2019. It’s amazing to see a player like Dovrat growing up right before our very eyes. It’s exciting to see another young Israeli talent that has a chance to go to the NBA. The NBA you ask? Yes, the NBA. He has all of the tools and his 6”5 frame is perfect for the greatest league in the world. D’Angelo Harrison spoke about the youngster, “Noam has been playing well but he is still a baby. He stepped up and has a bright future and the sky is the limit for him. He is a gym rat. He’s in the gym more than me and I’m in the gym a lot. It shows his work ethic too.” Coach Goodes also talked about the process Dovrat has done through this season with the senior squad, “This has been a process for Noam. We put an emphasis that he also play in the EuroCup and to give him many minutes in that competition. He even played close to 30 minutes in some games. When he wasn’t playing well, I left him on the court in order that he experience the physicality of the EuroCup which is at the level of the Euroleague. I believe this is what helped him tremendously, he was able to take part in this type of basketball, where he played against guards that were physical, aggressive, bigger and stronger and this is what made a difference. If you can play at this level as an 18-year old there is no question that there is a lot of room for progress and we are here to help him do just that.”

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Nahariya picked up a W at Haifa in what was an 8 man team effort by Danny Franco’s squad, a squad that he built magnificently and added a fantastic piece in Ivan Almeida. The Cape Verde native has been phenomenal since coming over from Italy and has averaged 15.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2.8 steals and has drawn close to 7 fouls a game. The bottom lone is, Almeida knows how to play, and play well. The secret to the teams success has just been how easy the guys seem to have been able to jell together, almost seamlessly. Captain Tony Gaffney himself flirted with a triple-double has also rolled back the clock on numerous occasions told The Sports Rabbi, “It’s all business with no room for error, “We’re continuing to get better and better and find our identity. We have a lot of guys that are starting to play at a high level. It’s the point in the season, that every game is a must win and you have to forget about the last game and move on immediately. We handled our business tonight, but if we have a set back against Beer Sheva, then tonight’s win means nothing.”

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Speaking of Hapoel Beer Sheva, has Evan Bruinsma been impressive or what? The Michigan native has been one of the success stories for new players signing in Israel and has more than doubled in averages from his time with Bayreuth earlier this season. Bruinsma is scoring at a 23 points clip compared to 9, pulling down close to 10 boards a game while taking 5 in Germany and dishing out 3 assists compared to 1. Impressive, quite impressive. Rami Hadar who just had his contract extended with the southern reds found absolute gems in every new import he brought in whether it is Amir Bell, Caleb Agada, Joe Furstinger and Bruinsma. “It was a must win game for us at home,” Bruinsma told The Sports Rabbi. “I’m just happy we could get the victory. It’s been an intense 6 weeks so far in Israel. We have been trying to build almost a new team in a short amount of time. We have a group of guys who are hungry and play hard. Those are the most important things in a short preparation and game period.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv waxed Nes Ziona by 30 points and the leader of the pack was Jordan Davis. I know how much Coach Ioannis Kastritis wants to keep the focus on the team and not on one individual player, but Davis has been great in 4 games for the Reds averaging 16.8 points, 4.3 rebounds while drawing 5 would per game. And his stat line also reflect a game that he played sick in and only put up 8 points in 19 minutes. The Las Vegas native attended Northern Colorado University and tore up the Big Sky Conference where he won the Player of the Year award in his Senior Season of 2018/19 while averaging 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists a game. Interestingly enough the 2018 Player of the Year was Bogdan Bliznyuk who played with Bnei Herzliya last year. But back to Davis. After completing his 4 years of eligibility at Northern Colorado it was off to Manresa, however, it was short stay Spain as Davis then moved to Rasta Vechta in November 2019 and averaged 14.4 points in 11 Champions League games and close to 20 points in the domestic German League. A fun fact about the 6”2 guard is that he also holds Azerbaijani citizenship and played for the National Team. There seems to be no wonder why Hapoel would want a young player of Davis’s caliber with so much potential. The sky is the limit for Davis.

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How about Akil Mitchell? Well, how about 15.8 points and 9 rebounds per game since joining Hapoel Gilboa Galil for the stretch run. Not bad, not bad at all from the Virginia product. The power forward featured with Virginia in some of their bets years which saw the team earn a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2014 where he served as Co-Captain with Joe Harris. In addition to Harris, Mitchell played alongside the likes of Malcolm Brogdan, Mike Scott, Anthony Gill, Darion Atkins and Mike Tobey. Those are quite the names familiar to Hoops fans around the world. Mitchell has played professionally in France, Australia, in the G-League and most recently in Italy for Trieste where he score 10 points and pulled down 7 boards per game. The 6”9 big man also had a crazy incident back in 2017 when he suffered an eye injury that could have cut his career short. Thankfully that isn’t the case and he’s with us in Israel for test time being helping Lior Lubin’s team reach for the stars!

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Hapoel Jerusalem made what should have been an easy game against Hapoel Holon look hard, very hard. The Reds led 19-5 out of the gate and were cruising to a massive victory, except, Jermaine Love who scored 31 points and Holon had other plans and tied the game up at 64 with three minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Not exactly the game Coach Oded Katash wanted to play, “This was much harder than it should have been,” explained the coach. “Maybe because Holon’s results hadn’t been good up until now the players thought it would be easy. Sometimes when you take a huge lead you can think the whole game will be like that and it’s never the case. We didn’t play smart basketball. When we did play properly and simple then we took a lead.” One of the reasons Jerusalem ended up taking the win was thanks to newcomer Deividas Sirvydis who came over during the Coronavirus from Rytas. “It has been very good so far and the team has been great, everyone, the players, coaches and doctors. The first few weeks were tough as was the first game to get into the defensive system which is different than what I had played before. But with each practice and game I think everything will be alright.” I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how Sirvydis develops over the next month before perhaps he will head to the NBA.

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