Rishon’s Harrison has his eyes on the prize

Star guard helped guide team to Final Four, with tough semifinal battle with Jerusalem on tap

D’ANGELO HARRISON has played all around the world, but the allure of winning a title with Maccabi Rishon Lezion is an exciting prospect for the 26-year-old guard (photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
D’ANGELO HARRISON has played all around the world, but the allure of winning a title with Maccabi Rishon Lezion is an exciting prospect for the 26-year-old guard
D’Angelo Harrison is one of those basketball players that you love to have on your team and just hate to have to play against.
In Maccabi Rishon Lezion’s case, coach Guy Goodes’s side knows it is lucky it doesn’t have to contend with the 26-year-old shooting guard and is able to benefit from his services.
Just before Rishon tips off against Hapoel Jerusalem in one of the Israel Winner Basketball League’s Final Four semifinal matchups on Sunday night, The Jerusalem Post had the chance to speak with the St. John’s University product. He looked at the challenges ahead for his club while also reflecting on his career which already has included a previous stop in the Holy Land. But, first off, Harrison is content to be back on the court after the coronavirus break and he discussed how he along with the rest of the team were all able to come back and play for a title.
“I’m happy that basketball is back and I have the chance to play the game that I love and get paid by doing it,” said Harrison. “We kept communicating through the break and when Darryl [Monroe] decided to come back, Alex [Hamilton] and I knew it was a no-brainer to return as well. We’re here to play basketball and compete for a championship.”
Rishon disposed of Maccabi Haifa in two games in their best-of-three quarterfinal series and earned a week to prepare for Hapoel Jerusalem. The Reds will certainly be a challenge for the wine city squad, as Rishon has not beaten Jerusalem in five meetings this season.
“Credit to them, they do a great job and Jerusalem is a very good team. In the second game we played them after the break, we had chances to beat them and that’s all you can ask for. We made some mistakes down the stretch and they capitalized. Hopefully we can make something different happen.”
One of the big challenges for Goodes’s squad will be shutting down Jeremy Pargo, who was at the top of his game this past week in Jerusalem’s playoff tilt against Ness Ziona. Pargo, who has played for Hapoel Gilboa/Galil and won a championship with his current coach, Oded Katash, shot 6-for-8 from beyond the arc and was lethal in the Game 2 victory to advance to the Final Four.
“At the end of the day, great players do great things,” explained Harrison. “But we have some great players of our own. He will have to beat us if he wants to be Jeremy Pargo and he will also have to guard Alex Hamilton. We will have to pick and choose and force him to do things he’s not comfortable with. We want to make the game uneasy and uncomfortable, that’s what we do.”
Interestingly enough, Harrison was born in Anchorage, Alaska, but moved to Texas at a very young age.
“I was only [in Anchorage] until I was four years old and then we moved to Houston. But I was able to go back to Alaska when I was a junior in college and see what it’s really like. It’s a nature type of city and totally different than a place like New York.”
Harrison’s brother DeAndre was actually the more talented ball player of the family before falling into problems with the law.
“My brother was a star growing up and I just used to sit in the corner and shoot threes to space the floor for him. When he got into trouble, he looked at me and said are you going to take a nine-to-five job or take this basketball thing to another level. I wasn’t ranked when I began high school, but when I finished I was the No. 1 player in Texas.”
After DeAndre was recently released from prison, D’Angelo has been in constant contact with his brother and would love to bring home a wonderful present with him from Israel.
“I was lost for words when he was released and being able to have him on FaceTime and not have to pay for every call. We can stay on all day now. It’s been amazing and I can’t wait to see him and I hope I can bring back the championship.”
Harrison attended St. John’s University and had a chance to play with future NBA player Maurice Harkless while also having the opportunity to go to the NCAA March Madness Tournament in his senior year.
After graduating, Harrison attended a number of NBA workouts and when he was with the Houston Rockets he received a surprising phone call.
“I got an offer from Uşak Sportif in Turkey and I was like ‘wow – a six-figure offer as a rookie!’ I was gone and I’ve been in Europe ever since.
“In my rookie year I had a good group of older guys on the team, such as Khem Birch (who now plays for the Orlando Magic), Andre Harris, Girodan Watson and Paul Harris. We surprised a lot of teams in Turkey and having them give me advice how overseas basketball really works was very helpful in paving the way for me.”
Following two seasons in Turkey, Harrison arrived in Israel and signed with Gilboa/Galil and, to his surprise, a bunch of his teammates were from his home state of Texas, including J’Covan Brown, who has starred for Jerusalem the past two years.
“When I got there, they asked me if I knew J’Covan Brown. I told them right there and then to sign him immediately. After he pulled up in Gan Ner, I couldn’t believe my eyes as I’ve known him forever. I would go watch him play when he visited Houston and he’s always been a killer on the court and a genuine person off it.”
That season, Gilboa/Galil and Jerusalem played a hotly contested playoff series that saw the Galilee team take the first game, but the Reds then won three close games in a row to go to the championship.
Harrison will look to find a way to get by Jerusalem this time, and he is confident he knows what the key will be for Rishon Lezion.
“We’ve just got to stay consistent with everything. I’ve been wearing the same pair of shorts on each game-day and we just have to stay to our same routine.”
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.