Basketball Preview: Mac TA, Jerusalem, Holon lead the pack

From Nahariya to Eilat, and Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, there are stars galore waiting to entertain you at an arena close to your home.

Basketball (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
The 2018/19 Israeli Basketball Super League season is upon us and there’s plenty of action to look forward to on the hardwood across the country.
From Nahariya to Eilat, and Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, there are stars galore waiting to entertain you at an arena close to your home.
Maccabi Tel Aviv – The yellow-and-blue is the defending champion and will look to not only perform well domestically but return to the heights of European basketball as Israel’s lone representative in the Euroleague. In order to compete against the likes of CSKA Moscow, Panathinaikos, Real Madrid and Fenerbahce, Maccabi, under head coach Neven Spahija, has brought in some new blood to supplement the roster.
NBA veterans Tarik Black and Johnny O’Bryant make their first foray overseas while Eurocup champion Scottie Wilbekin, Angelo Caloiaro and Kendrick Ray join Michael Roll, Jeremy Pargo, Alex Tyus, Jake Cohen, defensive player of the year DeAndre Kane and captain John Dibartolomeo. Rounding out the roster are three promising Israelis, Yovel Zoosman and Deni Avdija who were on this summer’s Under-20 European Championship team as well as Nimrod Levi who had a breakout year at Ashdod.
Hapoel Jerusalem – The capital city Reds made wholesale changes after last season’s disappointing campaign. Head coach Oded Katash will have a rejuvenated Amar’e Stoudemire at his disposal along with captain Lior Eliyahu and Bar Timor.
Offseason acquisitions included up-and-coming Israeli guard Tamir Blatt, son of coach David Blatt, Josh Owens, Da’Sean Butler, James Feldeine, Chris Johnson, J’Covan Brown as well as Alex Chubrevich and youngster Tomer Levinson who returns from a season in Croatia. Jerusalem will also play European ball, making its debut in the Champions League where it is in a group with defending champion AEK Athens and German powerhouse Brose Bamberg.
Hapoel Holon – The State Cup champion and BSL finalist made a number of roster moves as veteran coach Dan Shamir will look to make another run at the titles. Sharp-shooter Guy Pnini is back for his second season with the club, as is T.J. Cline, Corey Walden and Shlomi Harush. Khalif Wyatt returns after a season with Ness Ziona while Darion Atkins is also starting his second stint in Holon. Add into the mix DeQuan Jones, Jay Vaughn PInkston, Shawn Jones and Israeli star Amit Simhon, who comes north from Eilat and the yellow- and-purple has yet another formidable squad that will also be playing continental hoops in the Champions League. Maccabi Ashdod – Ashdod had a marvelous season last year under veteran coach Brad Greenberg and will look to continue the positive momentum into the new campaign.
However, a brand new squad is in place as Landon Milbourne, Paul Stoll, Lis Shoshi, Mark Tollefsen and Jake Pemberton will be joined by Spencer Weisz, Tom Maayan, Isaac Rosefelt and Ido Flaisher. The majority of the squad has played in the United States which will certainly be key for Greenberg’s style of play.
Hapoel Tel Aviv – Coach Danny Franco kept his core players together as Rafi Menco, Tomer Ginat and Raviv Limonad will be joined by newcomers Jamal Shuler, Dallas Moore, Jonathan Holmes and Alade Aminu while naturalized Israeli Stu Douglass moves from Nahariya to the Reds.
Maccabi Rishon Lezion – Veteran coach Zvika Sherf remains on the sidelines as a new team was built over the summer. Oz Blayzer came over from Maccabi Haifa and will captain the squad, Itay Segev moves from Maccabi Tel Aviv and Adam Ariel makes his way to Rishon from Ashdod. Marquis Wright, Deshawn Stephens and Cameron Long also come on board while Egor Koulechov returns to Israel from the University of Florida to hone his trade back home. Hapoel Beersheba – The newly promoted side was reconstructed by coach Rami Hadar who spent last season plying his trade in Romania. Former Oklahoma City Thunder guard Semaj Christon comes to Israel while Taylor Braun, Jordan Swing and Jakim Donalson form a formidable threat. Add in Chanan Colman and Travis Warech and Beersheba has the foundation to be a threat against any Israeli team this season.
Hapoel Gilboa/Galil – The team from the Galilee will be coached by Israel Under-20 boss Ariel Beit-Halachmi, who guided his side over the summer to the European crown. Israeli guard Joaquin Szuchman will lead the squad once again this year and will be joined Bryant Crawford, Ian Miller, James Kelly, Greg Whittington together with sabras Ben Altit and Tal Karpelesz.
Ness Ziona – The surprise package of last season will look to duplicate its success under coach Nadav Zilberstein as a number of players will return to the fold. Daequan Cook, Tal Dunne, Gary Browne Ramirez, Elishay Kadir and Golan Gutt will be joined by Gerald Lee, Oded Brandwein and Mickell Gladness as the team will look to also qualify for the FIBA Europe League.
Ironi Nahariya – Micky Gorka takes over at the Northern side and has built a new squad around returning guard Yiftach Ziv as Myke Henry, Justin Edwards, Terry Allen and Nana Foulland join Israelis Dagan Yivzori, Igor Nesterenko and Or Solomon.
Hapoel Eilat – Coach Sharon Drucker has made numerous moves this season bringing in a trio of Israeli veteran players – Avi Ben Chimol, Idan Zalmanson and Jonathan Skjoldebrand– who will be complimented by Elijah Bryant, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Devin Thomas and J.P. Tokoto.
Bnei Herzliya – Yet another team that went through a makeover this summer is Herzliya as Slovenian Gašper Potočnik was named as the new coach, while James Robinson and Michael Dixon joined the side. Karam Mashour returns after a season at Maccabi Tel Aviv, while Jeff Adrien and Sam Singer continue with the club.
Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel Sports Adventures for tourists and residents. Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or visit Contact the Sports Rabbi via email at [email protected]