Blogging Through Israel (part one)

Blogging Through Israel (part one)
Nov 07, 2006, 07:15 pm
Mike Schmidt is currently traveling in Israel over the next 3 weeks, covering numerous games live from Euroleague, ULEB Cup, and Israeli League.

After getting off a transcontinental flight, I was met at the airport in Tel Aviv by Yarone Arbel, an international basketball expert. Yarone founded Israel’s top basketball website,, 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 Israel’s 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 Galil’s. They don’t play European teams, so their goal is to make the final 4 in the Israeli domestic league. Bnei is known for it’s 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 Nailon’s 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.

Omri Casspi didn’t have a great game, though you can easily tell why he’s an NBA draft prospect. He’s about 6’8” with a good frame, and a long wingspan. He was originally developed to play the power forward position, but 2 years ago the decision was made that his future would be brighter as a small forward. Athletically, Casspi is smooth, and very coordinated, especially with his ball handling. He was able to penetrate into the paint numerous times off the dribble, and created some very easy baskets for him teammates in doing so. Sometimes international prospects get the reputation for being soft, but this isn’t the case with Casspi at all. Numerous times in the game he fought against much larger players in the paint. On one occasion he kept a big center off the boards with his body, and then elevated over him for an offensive rebound. Despite the fact that he’s still learning to play the small forward position, he has a very good feel for the game, and is often in the right place at the right time on the court. On the defensive end, Casspi moves his feet well, and can usually stay with opposing wing players, but he struggles to get up close to the defender and apply lockdown pressure, especially when trying to full court press. In zone defense, he was always able to be in the right position to help teammates and get rebounds. Casspi finished the game with 23 minutes, 5 points 1/2 from 2, 1/1 from the 3 point line, 3 rebounds, 1 turnover and 1 block—very much below average by his standards.
I’ll be seeing Casspi play two more times in the coming weeks, and it will be interesting to see some other aspects of his game.

1564Omri Casspi, FIBA Europe

Casspi’s teammate Yogev Ohayon is a 6’2” point guard that plays on Israel’s U19 team. He’s not much of an NBA prospect right now, but he is very skilled for a younger player. Ohayon is good off the dribble, and is able to get into the paint very well with his changes of speed and direction. He passes very well in the half-court, and often gets rebounds over much bigger players. On the defensive end, Ohayon is very active in the passing lanes and creates turnovers by always being in the right spot. His main weakness at this point is his perimeter shooting. Ohayon lacks lift on his shot, and his stroke is very inconsistent. He also dribbles the ball high, which isn’t a weakness at this point, but might turn into a problem against more athletic players. Ohayon finished the game with 12 points on 4/9 from the field and 4/6 from the free throw line. He also had 3 rebounds, 7 assists, 6 steals, and 2 turnovers.

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 isn’t making
the money he would elsewhere. From the sounds of it, he’d 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 6’6” 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 didn’t show up in the box score.

All of us at the pre-draft camp in Orlando were very impressed by Kenny Adeleke’s play, and he continued to play well for Galil. It was his first game, and his coach doesn’t really know how to use him correctly, as they ran a lot of pick and rolls with Adeleke away from the basket. He did make 2 three point shots which was very surprising, but Adeleke was most impressive when down on the block. He was able to easily establish position, and scored with a left handed hook shot numerous times. Adeleke is usually a great rebounder, but was off last night in that regard. He also gave up inside position a few too many times on defense, but it will take him a while to adjust to the game over here. He picked up some cheap fouls by hitting the offensive glass a little too hard. Adeleke finished with 20 points on 7/14 shooting and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes before fouling out.

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.

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