Well, Tashawn Thomas has returned to Hapoel Jerusalem, in what was a bit of a shocking move for both the club and the big man. Thomas the Tank Engine as he is called, who starred with the Reds over the past two seasons helped lead the capital city squad to a pair of Israel State Cups as well as a number of tremendous victories over Champions League foes and of course their arch nemesis in Israel, Maccabi Tel Aviv.
After having built up a CV over the past few seasons in Israel which also included a stint with Hapoel Holon where he won yet another State Cup, Thomas was ticketed to find greener pastures in Europe perhaps with a Euroleague team or a top level EuroCup side. However, all that came crumbling down with the hit of the coronavirus.
Thomas left Israel and traveled back home just like all of the other foreign based players in March as the unfortunate likelihood that the domestic season and the European campaign would be continued. The Champions League decided to postpone their playoffs and Final 4 and moved them to the end of September in what would be a preseason warmup type of competition.
The WINNER League looked like it was dead in the water once almost all of the other leagues across the continent called it a day, save for the German and Spanish that held shortened championships to crown a winner. But then all of a sudden the Israeli soccer league returned with the help of the Ministries of Health and Sports which led to the improbable resumption of the basketball league as well.
Jerusalem was able to coax almost all of their foreigners to return to Israel, from James Feldeine and Emanuel Terry to John Holland and Suleiman Braimoh while Shelvin Mack was the only player that decided not to come back to the Holy Land. J’Covan Brown and Tashawn Thomas also came back to Israel but it was clear from the outset that there were issues with both of their returns.
Brown wanted to be with his family and wasn’t focussed with his heart in the west and went back to the United States. While the club and head coach Oded Katash were disappointed they also knew it was for the best. At the same time the Reds brought in Jeremy Pargo to pick up some of the slack lost by Brown and Mack so while the former was a huge loss due to his exceptional MVP play up until the break in March, there was a replacement in the wings.
Thomas was a bit of a different story. The forward requested a bit more time in the and was granted that but when he came he was already behind the 8-ball because he needed to go into quarantine before beginning practice with the team. The other issue was that he wanted to go back home and didn’t want to stay.
The club wasn’t going to hold anyone by force to stay in Israel, but the comments made by coach Katash about his departure led one to believe that this case was different than that of Brown’s. The bench boss expressed his disappointment to a number of news outlets and also said that maybe one day we will understand the reasons for him going back home.
When Thomas made the decision to leave Israel for the second time it looked like the book on his career as a Hapoel Jerusalem player was closed and that he would not be seen in a red uniform gracing the Jerusalem Arena court again. But over the last few days news heated up that he and the club would exercise the option and rejoin the squad for the 2020/21 campaign and that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday August 13th as the club sent announced his return.
Questions with this reunion though remain. While arguably being an MVP player in the Champions League, how is it that Thomas was unable to score a bigger contract with a larger European club? The minute he went back to the US in March one would have thought teams would be banging down his door and offering him the chance to move up a level on and off of the court. Even when he returned to Israel and left before the restart of the league, Thomas should have been a wanted commodity by plenty of clubs across the continent. That’s question number one.
Question number two is why did Hapoel Jerusalem take Thomas back after having left them at the alter? The Reds had done so much for Thomas from signing him after the recreational drug issue that he had in Holon during the break due to the Israeli player strike while also elevating his value across the board by helping him also become a more recognizable name and a better player. For him to come back in June and then abruptly leave soon thereafter left a bad taste in Katash’s mouth as well as management.
However, that doesn’t seem to bother the Jerusalem fans who overwhelming voted in a Sports Rabbi poll to the tune of over 75% that they would have taken him back compared to about 15% who said no and roughly 10% who were undecided on the issue.
The bottom line is that it was a deal that obviously made sense for both sides. Jerusalem is getting back a cornerstone to their team and its success over the past two seasons at most probably a favorable salary. Thomas is coming back to a team and a city that he knows and knows well during a difficult time that has affected millions and millions of people around the world. Sometimes it’s better to just stay put during a time of uncertainty and that is what seems to have happened here for both sides.
Thomas has always given 110% effort on and off of the court and there is no reason to think that won’t be the case now. If Katash and management can overlook what had happened and let bygones be bygones, then there is no question that this is a reunion that will be beneficial for both team and player.
Welcome Back Tashawn, you were missed.