Bar Timor stepping up for blue-and-white - interview

Hapoel Tel Aviv point guard shoots the breeze about National Team, playing abroad and more.

BAR TIMOR is one of a number of guards that the Israel National Team is counting on for leadership, on and off the court, in the FIBA World Cup qualifying campaign. (photo credit: Josh Halickman)
BAR TIMOR is one of a number of guards that the Israel National Team is counting on for leadership, on and off the court, in the FIBA World Cup qualifying campaign.
(photo credit: Josh Halickman)

Bar Timor is one of the key players on the Israel National Team as it looks to punch its ticket to the next round of World Cup Qualifying.

Since returning to the fold, the 30-year-old guard has integrated extremely well into head coach Guy Goodes’s blue-and-white by playing a leadership role as a floor general, averaging five assists per game, while chipping in with four points and two-and-a-half rebounds in 25 minutes of play.

With a home clash against Estonia coming up on Sunday night at the Drive-In Arena following Thursday’s late duel in Poland, the Hapoel Tel Aviv captain spoke to The Jerusalem Post about a myriad of topics. The discussion ranged from his successful run with Hapoel Jerusalem, playing abroad in Germany, his chart-topping podcast and of course the immediate mission at hand.

“First of all, we are feeling really good going into this game,” an excited Timor began following an easy exhibition victory by the National Team over the Under-20 squad at the Drive-In.

“We have been practicing very hard while some players were here from the beginning and others joined us in the middle. All in all, we know each other fairly well. Slowly but surely we have been running more and more and finished up this part of training camp with the exhibition game, which was more intense and really got us up to speed. We want to do well and of course win the games. It’s great to be back with all of the guys and some really good people here.”

ALMOST AS much as his on-court production, Hapoel Jerusalem will need to rely on new team captain Bar Timor (11) for his leadership abilities (credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)ALMOST AS much as his on-court production, Hapoel Jerusalem will need to rely on new team captain Bar Timor (11) for his leadership abilities (credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)

Playing a major part in the National Team

Timor has become an integral part of the National Team under Goodes, who just guided his club team Hapoel Holon to the Israel league championship.

“[Goodes] really makes us feel very good and he gives all of us a ton of confidence,” said Timor. “The basketball that he wants us to play is very simple because when you have these national team windows you can’t really start doing some difficult plays, you’ve got to keep it to the basics while adding in a few wrinkles that many of us already know. We are trying to do exactly that in practice as well as in the exhibition game and we plan on doing the same in the qualifiers as well.”

 GUY GOODES has the Israel National Team ready and confident for its upcoming pair of FIBA World Cup qualifying games against Poland and Estonia.  (credit: YEHUDA HALICKMAN) GUY GOODES has the Israel National Team ready and confident for its upcoming pair of FIBA World Cup qualifying games against Poland and Estonia. (credit: YEHUDA HALICKMAN)

One of the positives that the team has right now is depth, especially at the guard position, which could limit the amount of minutes that Timor will play.

“I am not sure how that will factor in and really that is not my job, but there is competition and that is something good and healthy. The coaches will need to decide and I am happy that there are a lot of good choices to choose from. I believe that is something very good for Israeli basketball in general and we shall see what the staff will decide.”

Timor, who has played in two European championships back in 2015 and 2017, is looking forward to the upcoming Eurobasket this coming fall with the group stages taking place in Prague in September.

“I have played in two championships and it’s something hue, something very special to be a part of. This is the top of the top of European basketball and to be part of that is very important to one’s career. It’s one of the most challenging and exciting things that I have been fortunate to be a part of.”

Timor's story

Growing up in Haifa, Timor was part of both Hapoel Haifa and Maccabi Haifa’s youth department, as he explained how he began playing the sport.

“My father played with his friends and he would take me with him as they didn’t want to leave me with a babysitter. I was always a kid that loved sports from soccer to basketball and anything else that I could play when I was in first grade. Basketball always seemed to be the main sport though because I was also hanging out with my father so much and we would also watch games together. From there I just became more and more serious about it.”

As time went along, Timor realized that he actually had a chance to become a professional and make the game of basketball his calling.

"When I was about 15 years old, I was with one of the junior national teams and we went to play in Serbia. Players from all over the country came together to be a part of this team and they took the top 12 at that age group. I knew that I was a good player from my area in the north, but I didn’t know any of the others from Beersheba, Tel Aviv and other areas of the country."

"At that time there was no social media, so no one really knew each other, but all of sudden when we were together we began to get to know one another. You also understood where you were basketball-wise and what you needed to work on. I realized then that this was going to be my life’s calling and that it would be very demanding as well.”

As Timor continued to evolve, he also began to look up to a number of players that he would also one day be able to play with.

“As a child I really loved Yogev Ohayon, Yotam Halperin and Raviv Limonad because they also played my position and also played a similar style. I played with all three, two of which in a club team and one with the national team and it was amazing.”

After beginning his professional career with Hapoel Haifa and Hapoel Kiryat Tivon in the Leumit League, Timor then played with Hapoel Tel Aviv before moving to Alba Berlin in time for the 2013/14 season.

While his stint in Germany was plagued by injuries, today there are two Israelis playing for the same Alba Berlin, which has had a successful campaign as Tamir Blatt and Yovel Zoosman helped the squad win the German BBL League championship.

“I would recommend to anyone that if they had the chance to play outside of Israel to do so because it is so different and there are a lot of plusses. It’s difficult, but it also is worth is due to the experience gained. Tamir, Yovel, Tomer [Ginat], Rafi [Menco], Gal [Mekel] all played abroad and while I didn’t have the greatest time, I learned a tremendous amount in terms of intensity and professionalism. I was able to take many things from my year away from Israel for the rest of my career. I would recommend to go abroad at the right age and I did it when I was a bit young, but also have your family accompany you and don’t do it alone. But for sure one should go for it.”

As for what the right age is, Timor explained that it could be different for each person.

“I went I was 21 and that was a bit early, but someone else may find that this age is perfect for them. It’s very individualistic. Tomer was 25-26, Tamir and Yovel were 23-24. It’s always good to experience playing in Israel first and challenge yourself here before heading abroad. But above all, I went by myself which was a mistake and I told each person that consulted me to go with someone or family, not alone.”

Last season, Timor had an excellent showing with 10.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game while in the postseason his average bumped up to 16.5 points, 4.8 boards and 3.8 helpers. In fact, the guard had arguably the best game of his career during the quarterfinal series against Maccabi Tel Aviv when he scored 26 points (6-of-7 from three-point range) in an unforgettable performance.

“I felt very, very good the entire series and even before the series I had been playing very well. I felt that I was coming into the final stages of the season in great shape and the game just went my way. I started off well and when J’Covan Brown was injured at the end of the first half and I knew that I had to continue on. Everything just went my way and every shot went in. I was very confident and I even took some tough shots and we all played together. We only had two foreigners, as James Young was also hurt, but this was a very special game.”

Hapoel Tel Aviv will participate in the EuroCup this coming season, which is a very big step for the club to take as it continues its progression that began about a decade ago when the Reds made their way back to the top division.

Timor has already played in the EuroCup with Hapoel Jerusalem and ALBA Berlin and understands that this is an important move by the club and that it will also take some time to get used to playing on a consistent basis in Europe.

“For Hapoel Tel Aviv, this is definitely a statement that we are taking a step forward as a franchise. We will need to understand as a club what this will demand of us and I don’t think that our goal in the first year will be to really try and make a he mark or try to win the competition. We are beginning our European journey and the idea is to just learn as we go along.

“Of course we want to do well and be competitive, but learning how to adapt to European basketball, playing twice a week, flights, practices and playing domestically will be something that we will have to get used to.”

Timor feels that Hapoel Tel Aviv is without question one of the big clubs in Israeli basketball alongside Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Holon.

“As a club, the power and strength of Hapoel Tel Aviv is remarkable. The fans, the people around the club are simply incredible. I think that if the Drive-In, which is a great arena, could build more stands they would be packed. We felt it when we played in the State Cup semifinal and it was absolutely phenomenal with so many people looking for tickets. There are so many people who want to see this club succeed and they are also so connected to the team, which is exactly what is most needed by this franchise.”

Having won two league championships and two State Cups with Hapoel Jerusalem between 2014-2020 and now being the captain and leader of Hapoel Tel Aviv, the case can be made that one of the most successful Israeli players of all-time is identified by two separate franchises.

“This is most definitely something that I can identify with and what others identify me with as well. I am very, very happy that I was able to put my mark on the success of Hapoel Jerusalem and that I am now doing the same at Hapoel Tel Aviv. They are really two of the biggest franchises in the country with fans and people around the clubs who live and breathe every single movement of the team. I am very fortunate to have had this opportunity and everyone wants to have the chance to make an impact. I am happy that I was able to do that both on the professional side and on the personal side as well.”

Off the court, Timor not only loves to surf YouTube for funny and interesting videos and ideas, he is also the co-host with soccer player Ron Shushan of one of Israel’s most successful podcasts, “Fresh Talk” which is part of the HaPodium Network founded by Oren Josipovich, the Holy Land’s version of Bill Simmons.

“The idea began because I wanted to give my opinion on a number of topics, which I used to do on Twitter, but at some point I had to just stop. One day I was with Oren and we all saw that there was a terrific dynamic so he said anytime I want to give podcasting a shot he’d be happy to see how it would go. I would send him some ideas about two athletes doing a podcast and he said that it sounds great and let’s try it out.”

 As for the upcoming World Cup qualifier, Timor is aware of the importance of the pair of clashes and how they can impact on Israel’s standing should it advance to the second round.

“We want to win the game and that is our goal. I hope that we will improve our situation in group play. As for the European Championships in September it’s always a goal to advance out of the group stages and into the knockout rounds because once you get there it plays to our favor. One game win or go home against teams that may be physically and athletically superior or that are more experienced gives us a better chance to move on as you never know what can happen in one game and things sometimes just come together.”

 As the interview wrapped up, Timor shared his biggest dream as he had a huge smile plastered across his face.

“The biggest dream right now is to win a title with Hapoel Tel Aviv. We were very, very close last season, just a minute or two away, and it has been sitting heavy on my heart. I understood how gigantic this would be for this club and for my career. So, this is the goal.”