Misgav maintains rhythm in weird season

Nahariya guard opens up about his Israel basketball journey, return to the court after hiatus

DIMINUTIVE GUARD Niv Misgav (left) almost propelled Ironi Nahariya past Hapoel Jerusalem in the State Cup final earlier this year, and he has retained his form since the Israeli basketball league resumed last week after the coronavirus-induced break (photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
DIMINUTIVE GUARD Niv Misgav (left) almost propelled Ironi Nahariya past Hapoel Jerusalem in the State Cup final earlier this year, and he has retained his form since the Israeli basketball league resumed last week after the coronavirus-induced break
Niv Misgav has been coming into his own for Ironi Nahariya.
The 25-year old hoopster helped his team make it all the way to the State Cup final, where it fell in dramatic fashion to Hapoel Jerusalem, and he recorded a career-best 16 points against Hapoel Tel Aviv just as the league was stopped in its tracks due to the coronavirus.
However, Misgav picked up exactly where he left off prior to the unexpected stoppage and has averaged 10 points a game over his last three contests since the league resumed play last week.
Interestingly, the guard’s career didn’t take the typical route to the top division as Misgav worked his way up through the lower divisions to eventually make it to the promised land.
With the league’s decision to return to the hardwood, Misgav spoke to The Jerusalem Post about getting back to basketball.
“The past couple of months have been tough for everyone. But sports are important to the fabric of our society and not only do I miss playing but I believe the fans also want us to return to the court. I’m excited to get back as I hope that we can find a way to return to where we were beforehand.”
“Over the break I rested a bit and now I am back to training really hard and getting back into game shape. I have been with my family and friends for the majority of time, and that has been a blessing. Of course, you can’t blame anyone for the current situation as it’s taken the entire world by storm.”
Misgav helped Nahariya advance to its first-ever State Cup final in February after shocking Hapoel Holon and Ness Ziona in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. The northern club gave Jerusalem all that it could handle in Tel Aviv’s Yad Eliyahu in the final, but just came up short, falling 92-89 in a thriller.
“We won some big games in the cup competition and we knew what to do in order to get all the way to the final, where we were so close, just one basket. But all in all we did a good job. For myself, it was a chance to reach the level that I had dreamed of. You meet the president, Reuven Rivlin, and a number of important people in Israel. It was the top of the top of Israeli basketball and it was very exciting.”
Misgav grew up in Kfar Vardim and lived at the Hapoel Galil Elyon boarding school in Kfar Blum for a couple of years.
“That was an amazing experience for me and the best thing that could have happened. I was living with my friends, learning with them and we all looked out for one another. It was great.”
The first stop in Misgav’s professional career was with Hapoel Acre in Liga Alef, and he helped the club earn promotion in 2013 to the Artzit League in 2013, when the 6-foot-1 (1.81-meter) guard hit the game-winning shot against Hapoel Nazareth Elite.
“It was a great feeling to see all of my hard work and effort pay off. I had tried to find a team to play for in a higher division, but it didn’t work out. So instead I was able to help the team that did trust me to move up a league. It was so amazing and exciting to be able to do what we did that season.”
Misgav’s next stop was Hapoel Haifa, where he spent four years between 2014-2018 and was the Most Valuable Player in the 2015/16 finals series. As each season went by, Misgav’s numbers continued on an upward trend in a place that was almost like a second home.
“Haifa was where I really felt that I could be me and continue to improve with a tremendous amount of support while I was also in the army. They really took care of me and it was my home. I loved playing there. Although I had a number of coaches there, Ilan Nanikashvili was my role model and he is still playing today at the age of 40. We played together for three seasons and he helped me along the way as he was also a guard.”
Misgav finally got an opportunity to play in the top-tier Winner League when he signed with Nahariya on a three-year contract.
“I learned very quickly that the top league was much more physical and the pace of play was much faster. It was difficult to adjust to at the beginning but slowly I was able to understand what I needed to do to succeed at this level. It was a challenge. As a smaller player I had to be tough on the mental side of the game and play to my advantage which is my quickness.”
This season under coach Danny Franco and his assistant Ofer Rahimi, Nahariya built a club with battle tested veterans including Tony Gaffney, Jerel McNeal, Travis Warech, Itay Segev and Dominic Waters, who once featured with Greek powerhouse Olympiacos.
One of those veterans, Tony Gaffney, has nothing but praise from his teammate.
“Niv is one of those guys that’s going to give a team everything he’s got and in my opinion makes us one of the deepest teams in the league. He continues to be one of the best full-court defensive augurs this league has seen. He’s someone you always want to go to war with, as well as being a deadly shooter without a conscience. Aside from that, he’s a great teammate and always lightens the mood in a locker room. He has a really bright future in this league.”
Misgav is quick to deflect the praise.
“I have been able to learn a tremendous amount from two coaches with so much experience,” said Misgav. “They’ve won finals and gone to championship games and have been able to help me improve my game and be part of a team.
“This season we had very experienced players on the roster. They knew that the most important thing was to be a part of team and work as a team and not as individuals. Each player was a leader and each one gave of themselves to do what they do best. Waters was the best guard I have ever played with and he was so competitive. He hates to lose, hates to turn over the ball, hates to miss a shot, he hates it all, he wants the team to succeed. I have been able to learn from him what a team needs to do to win. He has given so much of himself and his experience to the team.”
As Misgav continues to refine his game he is looking to be the best that he can be and take the lessons learned from those he has been playing with.
“I want to be an important and dominant player in the league and truly succeed with a successful club.”
Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel sports adventures for tourists and residents (www.sportsrabbi.com). Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or feel free to contact the Sports Rabbi at sportsrabbi9@gmail.com.