Gameday 24’s Starting 5 begins with two of the good guys in basketball, Daniel Seoane and Jerai Grant while I also look at Deni, Doyle and the Reds.
1) I’m super happy for Maccabi Haifa Daniel Seoane and his team picking up the win against Nes Ziona at home on Monday night. There are few people who are dedicated to his trade as Seoane and after a couple of frustrating losses it’s great to see the Greens get a W on the board. I’m also super content for Jerai Grant who joined the team for the stretch run after playing earlier in the season with Strasbourg and AEK Athens. Grant has played in Lithuania, Italy, Australia and back in 2013 with Hapoel Holon. I had the privilege to interview the big man when he was playing in France before their Champions League game against Holon and you can check that out by clicking on this link. Grant went 8/11 good for 18 points while grabbing 7 rebounds and blocking 3 shots in the victory over struggling Nes Ziona and his inspired play along with Reggie Upshaw, Speedy Smith, Andrew Andrews and Captain Willy Workman amongst others will try and wrap up the 5th spot which would set up a quarterfinal date with Holon who are a shell of their former selves since coming back from the break. Should Haifa get that 5th spot they will be in the drivers seat to move on to the Final 4. But there is still plenty of basketball to be played before we get to the playoffs and the teams are so bunched up that there is only 3 games separating 5th place from 10th.
2) Back to Grant for a moment. I was able to talk to Haifa’s new recruit following their home loss to Eilat last Friday and he had already foreshadowed that it would be just a matter of time until the club would get to where they need to be, “We’ll take it step by step. We know that for the last few games we haven’t played to the level we are capable of. Every team has ups and downs especially in a short season and we have to find a way to click faster.” He also talked about what the team was able to take away from the Eilat defeat, “We weren’t prepared in the beginning but we picked it up in the second half, especially in the 4th quarter which is something we can learn from and to bring to the next practice and next game. But we can’t start off like we did against Eilat and it was too big of a hole to climb out of.” Well, Haifa did start slow versus Nes Ziona gong down 29-18 after ten minutes, but were able to use a very strong second half as they outscored the opposition 52-26 to take the win.
3) It seems that every Gameday we have to talk abut Deni Avdija and this one will be no exception. After a number of games against Jerusalem that Avdija didn’t factor into, the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery Prospect made an impact with a trio of triples as he faced his biggest test to date since returning from the break. Avdija’s mechanics looked good, he had explosiveness to the basket and continued on the path that he has been going on since getting back to business on the court. Jerusalem Coach Oded Katash spoke about the Israeli hoops prodigy, “We all know where he is headed and he is a very, very high level player.” Idan Zalmanson, the Reds big man also spoke about Avdija’s play, “Deni’s an excellent player and he played well in this game, but it’s not just him, it’s the entire Maccabi Tel Aviv as they are a quality team, but he played well.” Maccabi faces Jerusalem in the capital city next Thursday night before the playoffs and it should be interesting, but Maccabi has their first game against Rishon coming up and a date with Holon at Ashdod before their clash with the Reds.
4) Eilat just keeps on rolling as Milton Doyle played on center stage with 26 points which included six 3-pointers. Not bad from the former Brooklyn Nets player. But it wasn’t just Doyle (who was on with The Sports Rabbi on the Holy Land Hoops Show) it was once again Devon Scott who ate up Ashdod on both sides of the floor plus another terrific rebounding game from Ben Carter, a near double-double by Jordan Caroline and another fine offensive performance from Rafi Menco. Coach Arik Alfasi must be wondering what would have been if he would have had the roster he has now for the entire season. Basketball for Eilat has become fun again, a lot of fun! Doyle told The Sports Rabbi following the game what has been the winning recipe this far, “It’s been good team chemistry. Guys have been trusting each other and coach.”
5) Raz Adam is the man! Hapoel Tel Aviv got back onto the winning track with a 3-point win over Hapoel Beer Sheva. But it wasn’t just the win, it’s how they won. The Reds wiped out a 15 point deficit and were without Jordan Hamilton for the majority of the game due to illness, plus got 7 huge points from Raz Adam’s 9 minutes on the court and coach Ioannis Kastritis was one happy man getting back in the win column. Add to that a Talib Zanna double double and having 10 players with points and you have one complete victory over a Beer Sheva team who had been playing great basketball to date. “I’m happy that we were able to come back from a tricky situation after halftime,” explained coach Kastritis. “The players gave it all and they woke up in time as every player contributed to the team win without exception.” And that was the key, everyone as involved from the first player to the last. Without Raz Adam’s contribution, Hapoel doesn’t win the game or even come close to it. By the way, the 2019 Under-20 European Champion was also a +15 to lead the team in again just 9 minutes. Not bad, not bad at all.
Noam Dovrat. Ok basketball fans and NBA Draft enthusiasts, after Avdija, Dovrat is the next great Israeli prospect who can enter the 2021 draft. Dovrat has been playing with Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion over the course of the 2019/20 season and has been very impressive. He plays the game as if he is a seasoned veteran and not a 17 year old. He is mature beyond his years and has height as well at 1.94m. Dovrat has gotten some tremendous experience this season under coach Guy Goodes playing 18.4 minutes in the Israeli league while averaging a shade over 5 points and in EuroCup action he clocked in at 15 minutes a game with 3 points per contest. In EuroCup action he also had the chance to play against the likes of Milos Teodosic which of course is invaluable experience. This past game against Hapoel Holon he scored 15 points on 6/7 from the field plus he pulled down 5 rebounds. Dovrat’s still developing and it’s been fun watching hi grow right before our very eyes.
The 3 Stars of Gameday 24!
— Sports Rabbi (@thesportsrabbi) June 30, 2020