Eilat’s Bryant shines brightest in BSL so far

Mac TA’s Dibartolomeo top Israeli half-way through season • Blatt takes next step with Jerusalem

HAPOEL HOLON forward Darion Atkins (left) blocks a shot by Ironi Nahariya’s Yiftach Ziv during first-place Holon’s 78-72 victory on Wednesday night in BSL action (photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
HAPOEL HOLON forward Darion Atkins (left) blocks a shot by Ironi Nahariya’s Yiftach Ziv during first-place Holon’s 78-72 victory on Wednesday night in BSL action
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
As the Basketball Super League season heads into the second round of games, let’s take a look back at the first round’s best of the best.
Elijah Bryant has been the league’s most valuable player to date. The Hapoel Eilat guard has helped the Red Sea city side to an 8-3 record with eight wins in a row. The BYU product is scoring at a 20.8 points per game rate and has an efficiency of 23. Add to that 6.8 rebounds per contest and you’ve got one all-star who may be heading to the NBA by the end of the season, similar to Jordan Loyd who played with Eilat last year and signed a two-way contract with the Toronto Raptors.
The top Israeli award goes to Maccabi Tel Aviv’s John Dibartolomeo, who is averaging 16.1ppg. The naturalized Israeli won the league’s MVP award a couple of seasons ago and will no doubt be in the running again this year.
Rounding out the top-five are Hapoel Gilboa/Galil’s Bryant Crawford, who is averaging 18.7 points and 4.9 assists per game, Taylor Braun of Hapoel Beersheba, who is clocking in with 14.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and four assists a game and Hapoel Holon’s Darion Atkins, with 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
The most improved players so far have been Hapoel Jerusalem’s Tamir Blatt, who has seen a marked improvement under Oded Katash after coming over from Holon this season, T.J. Cline for Holon, who as well has been stellar so far this campaign, and Beersheba’s Travis Warech, who has blossomed under coach Rami Hadar.
The biggest game changer has been without a doubt James Feldeine of Hapoel Jerusalem. The former Red Star Belgrade and Panathinakos star has played incredible entertaining ball all season long, including hitting a buzzer-beating game-winning three-pointer at Beersheba.
The coach of the round is Sharon Drucker, who mans the sidelines for Eilat. After an 0-3 start the team is in the midst of a nine-game winning streak in league play. Bringing in Suleiman Braimoh has been huge for the team, while J.P. Tokoto has been tremendous as well.
Tal Dunne gets the nod for hardest-working player by helping lead Ness Ziona with one terrific performance after another, scoring 10.8 points to go along with 6.4 rebounds and four assists per game, while having flirted with a triple-double on numerous occasions.
Meanwhile, in league action this week, Hapoel Holon picked up a 78-72 win at home against Nahariya thanks to superb play by guard Corey Walden, who took the team in his back with 13 fourth quarter points.
The visitors went into the final frame with a slim 58-56 lead as Yiftach Ziv carried the load with 23 points, 10 rebound, seven assists and five steals, but Walden’s heroics – scoring the majority of his 21 points in money time – made all the difference. Darion Atkins again recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds in the win and following the game Holon re-signed veteran forward Guy Pnini to a two-year contract.
Elsewhere, Hapoel Eilat collected its ninth league win in a row, defeating visiting Hapoel Tel Aviv 95-89.
Tokoto and Braimoh scored a huge 31 and 27 points, respectively, for Drucker’s squad. Tel Aviv’s Jamal Shuler and Stu Douglass led a late charge to cut a 21-point deficit to just four in the late stages of the game, but it wasn’t enough as former Red Rafi Menco put the exclamation mark on the victory with a big dunk at the end of regulation.
Also, Maccabi Rishon Lezion needed overtime to record its fourth straight victory over all competitions by beating Ness Ziona 95-93 on the road.
Alex Hamilton proved too much for the hosts in the extra period as the guard excelled with 21 points, while Cameron Long added 20 in the victory.
Player of the month for December Tal Dunne and Chris Dowe with 28 points helped send the game into overtime, but Rishon was up to the challenge to take home the win.
Hanan Colman’s double-double propelled Hapoel Beersheba to a 82-68 win over Hapoel Gilboa/Galil at Gan Ner.
With a 47-25 rebounding advantage, including 18 offensive rebounds, visiting Beersheba was able to cruise to the 14-point win. Colman drilled home six three-pointers and pulled down 10 rebounds as Jordan Swing and Jake Donaldson also recorded double-doubles in the victory. Greg Whittington led the hosts with 28 points in defeat.
Hapoel Jerusalem took on Bnei Herzliya on Thursday night in a contest that ended after press time.
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 www.sportsrabbi.com. Contact the Sports Rabbi via email at sportsrabbi9@gmail.com