Local teams retool for resumption of play

Israeli basketball clubs overhaul rosters with foreign players • Soccer clubs start exhibition games

TASHAWN THOMAS (left) and Hapoel Jerusalem advanced to the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday night, while Scottie Wilbekin (right) and Maccabi Tel Aviv had their Euroleague campaign suspended due to coronavirus. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
TASHAWN THOMAS (left) and Hapoel Jerusalem advanced to the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday night, while Scottie Wilbekin (right) and Maccabi Tel Aviv had their Euroleague campaign suspended due to coronavirus.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
 As most of the sports scene around the world is quiet, Israel has been super busy over the past week as both the basketball and soccer leagues ramped up operations in preparation to resume their respective 2019/20 leagues over the next month.
In addition, the Holy Land has a new Minister of Culture and Sports in Member of Knesset Hili Tropper, who replaced Miri Regev. The Israel Basketball League sent congratulations to the new minister and wish him much success as he enters the position in the midst of the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
The league is hopeful that Tropper will be able to help compensate the clubs for the tremendous financial losses incurred from COVID-19 as well as help build new facilities and join the fight in violence.
League Chairman Shmuel Frankel has already been in contact with Tropper and the two will meet next week. Frankel also invited Tropper to attend one of the first games when the season resumes in June.
With teams heading back to practice, new and old players are making their way back to Israel to finish off the campaign.
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s star guard Scottie Wilbekin will be returning to Israel and will look to pick up where he left off and will rejoin his teammates Amar’e Stoudemire, Deni Avdija, Yovel Zoosman, Jake Cohen, Angelo Caloairo and Sandy Cohen, who all remained in the country since the coronavirus break.
Hapoel Jerusalem will have James Feldeine, TaShawn Thomas, Suleiman Braoimoh, Emanuel Terry, J’Covan Brown coming back from the United States and will get back to training with Tamir Blatt, Idan Zalmanson and coach Oded Katash.
Hapoel Beersheba’s captain Spencer Weisz has returned to Israel while the club also needed to sign a number of new players to take the place of those who didn’t come back. The new acquisitions include big man Joe Furstinger, who played with GTK Gliwice where he averaged 11.8 points and 7.2 rebounds, Ukrainian/Israeli Andriy Kulish, who plied has trade in the Ukraine for KDPU and clocked in a double-double average of 18.3 points and 10 rebounds a game.
Evan Bruinsma, who played for Bayreuth in Germany and averaged 8.9 points and 4.6 rebounds, will join Beersheba as well while Weisz’s former Princeton teammate guard Amir Bell also comes abroad for a final push from the Kuala Lumpur Dragons, where he averaged 15.8 points, 7.2 assist and 7.0 rebounds.
Hapoel Holon was also busy with a number of signings, but none bigger than extending Greek coach Stefanos Dedas’s contract through the 2020/21 season. Jimmy Hall who played with Maccabi Hod Hasharon and averaged 18.9 points and 13.6 rebounds moved up a league, forward Shavon Coleman from Kangoeroes in Belgium and averaged 16.5 points and 7.1 rebounds also joined the Holon club.
Finally, guard Jermaine Love, who featured for Kolossos Rodou and Scaligera Basket Verona, as well as Desi Washington, who played for Anadolu Basket in Turkey, round out Dedas’s roster.
Maccabi Rishon Lezion kept its main core of American players intact as Darryl Monroe, D’Angelo Harrison and Alex Hamilton will all be back in Israel to complete the season, while State Cup finalist Nahariya will have Dominic Waters and Diamon Simpson returning to the northern city.
JP Tokoto returns to Ness Ziona while Cameron Oliver also inked a contract with the club after playing in Australia with Cairns Taipans and averaged 17 points and 9.4 rebounds, as did Rayvonte Rice, who played earlier in the season with Hapoel Eilat.
Shannon Shorter will join Hapoel Eilat from Greek squad PAOK, where he averaged 16.9 points and has also played in Israel beforehand with Kfar Saba and Afula. Ben Carter, who featured for second-division Hapoel Afula where he scored 13 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and Jordan Caroline, who played in the G-League with the Los Angeles Lakers’ farm team, scored 11.6 points and added 5.5 rebounds a contest and will also head down south. Canadian guard Milton Doyle from the Iowa Wolves of the G-League will as well make his way to the Holy Land.
Hapoel Tel Aviv also extended the contract of its Greek coach until the end of the 2020/21 campaign as Ioannis Kastritis gets back scorers Sek Henry and Jordan Hamilton for the stretch run, while center Talib Zanna comes over from Turkey after a pair of previous stints in Israel.
Maccabi Ashdod will have a new head coach as Amit Tamir will finish the season on the bench in place of Brad Greenberg, while the club also signed veteran Israeli guard Paul Delaney from Ashkelon and Al’lonzo Coleman, who had been playing with Hapoel Ramat Gan-Givataim.
Hapoel Gilboa/Galil inked guard Joe Thomasson, who played in Poland with Stelmet Zielona Gora, and Tim Coleman, who comes over from Salon Vilpas in Finland, while Michael Young returns for the balance of the 2019/20 campaign for Lior Lubin’s squad.
Meanwhile in soccer, the Israel Premier League has been busy with exhibition games to get the players ready for the resumption of the season as Hapoel Tel Aviv, Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Maccabi Tel Aviv have all been in action.
The league released the schedule for the first four rounds of action once the season resumes at the end of May, with the first game pitting Maccabi Tel Aviv against Hapoel Haifa at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday May 30 while Beitar Jerusalem will welcome Hapoel Beersheba and Maccabi Haifa will play Hapoel Tel Aviv.
The soccer State Cup semifinals will both be held in Netanya. On Tuesday, June 9, Maccabi Petah Tikva will duel with Hapoel Tel Aviv, and the next day Yossi Abukasis and Hapoel Beersheba will meet the coach’s former team, Bnei Yehuda.