After getting off a transcontinental flight, I was met at the airport in Tel Aviv by Yarone Arbel, an international basketball expert. Yarone founded Israels top basketball website,Salnews.com, and was nice enough to invite me to stay with him for a few weeks. Right from the airport we drove up north to Kfar Blum, a town located 10 minutes from the Lebanese border. There we saw Galil Elyon play against Bnei Hasharon.
Galil Elyon, the home team, is where a lot of Israels younger players are sent to play. They are the only team not called Maccabi Tel Aviv to win an Israeli title since 1970. Their budget is around 1 million dollars, and they usually bring over about 3 or 4 foreigners from outside of Israel. This season Galil features 1988 born NBA draft prospect Omri Casspi, a player being lent to the team by Maccabi. Yogev Ohayon, born in 1987, is also another interesting young player for Galil. In addition, they recently signed the player we named Orlando Pre-Draft Camp MVP, Kenny Adeleke, who was just released from the Seattle Supersonics as an undrafted free agent.
Bnei Hasharon is a team from the Tel Aviv area, with a budget a little larger than Galils. They dont play European teams, so their goal is to make the final 4 in the Israeli domestic league. Bnei is known for its scouting of players from outside Israel. This season is no exception, as they have American players Ousmane Cisse, Julius Page, Cookie Belcher, Jason Williams, and Lee Nailon all signed to bargain contracts.
The game itself was a blowout in favor of Bnei Hasharon. The game was close in the first quarter, but Bnei went on a big run in the second quarter, and led 57 to 44 at halftime behind Lee Nailons 18 first half points. In the second half, Galil made a couple of runs to cut the lead to single digits, but they were unable to gain enough momentum to do
anything more than cut the lead to 7. In the fourth quarter, both Casspi and Adeleke fouled out, and Bnei blew the game wide open, finishing with 105-91 victory.
The big question of the night was why is Lee Nailon playing for Bnei Hasharon? Nailon was able to do whatever he wanted to do on the court. He spent most of the game inside driving to the basket, and finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds on 68% shooting in 25 minutes. Nailon could be playing in a much better league, and he probably isnt making
the money he would elsewhere. From the sounds of it, hed do better on Maccabi than some of the American players they brought in this year.
Also for Bnei, Jason Williams, a recent UTEP grad, played very well in his first professional post-college game. A 66 forward, he did a lot of the little things on the court that seemed to bring the team together. While his teammates were having big scoring games, Williams was making good passes, getting key rebounds, and getting to the right spots on the floor. His versatility should make him a very important glue guy on the team for the rest of the season. He is playing next to two guys in Nailon and Belcher who can really score the ball, and Williams is the perfect guy to compliment the two with his passing, rebounding, and all-around understanding of the game. He finished up with 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists, but he created more scoring opportunities for teammates that didnt show up in the box score.
Today we are heading to Jerusalem to watch Hapoel play against Montepaschi in a ULEB Cup game. Hapoel features Mario Austin, Timmy Bowers, and Ed Cota, while Montepaschi fetures NBA draft prospect Luigi Datome who played in the Nike Hoop Summit in 2006, as well as Romain Sato, and Lonny Baxter.