Examining Israel's basketball teams and new players before season start

As new season set to tip off, plenty of new faces get ready to grace courts across the country.

SULEIMAN BRAIMOH and Hapoel Jerusalem are poised to be championship contenders in the local 2020/21 hoops season, which begins this weekend. (photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
SULEIMAN BRAIMOH and Hapoel Jerusalem are poised to be championship contenders in the local 2020/21 hoops season, which begins this weekend.
The Israel basketball league is back this weekend with a trio of games, but before we get to the action on the court, let’s take a look at what went on during the offseason with each of the clubs as they prepare for a 2020/2021 campaign that will surely be like no other.
Maccabi Tel Aviv head coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos is back on the sidelines to begin his second full season with the team after joining midway during the 2018/19 schedule. The Greek bench boss will rely on star guard Scottie Wilbekin, who is starting his third year with the yellow-and-blue, big man Othello Hunter, Angelo Caloiaro, Elijah Bryant and Tyler Dorsey.
Maccabi is still waiting on Omri Casspi, Yovel Zoosman and John DiBartolomeo, who are all recovering from injuries, while newcomers Ante Zizic, Dragan Bender – both of whom arrived from the NBA – along with Oz Blayzer and Chris Jones round out the players who will get the majority of minutes in the Euroleague.
Youngsters Sandy Cohen, Eidan Alber, Dori Sahar, Yonatan Atias and Max Heidegger will all feature in the Israeli league as the club will look toward a new generation of talent to help lead it forward in the years to come.
Over at Hapoel Jerusalem, Oded Katash’s squad is a bit different than in years past with a number of wholesale changes to the composition of this year’s version of the team.
Big men TaShawn Thomas, Suleiman Braimoh and Idan Zalmanson all remain with the team while guards Tamir Blatt – the son of David Blatt – and J’Covan Brown will still feature in the capital city.
However, Brown is injured and will be out for the near future. Swingman Deividis Sirvydis, who joined the squad for the end of the 2019/20, also stayed with the team for the upcoming campaign but has been used sparingly thus far in Balkan League play.
Guards Tarik Phillip, Chris Kramer and Adi Cohen Saban all joined the team, with Phillip having played in Turkey, Kramer in the Euroleague and Cohen Saban with Hapoel Beersheba last season. Malcolm Hill came over from Astana while Adam Ariel and Niv Balul moved from Maccabi Rishon Lezion to Malha for the upcoming campaign.
Hapoel Holon and coach Stefanos Dedas have put together a run-and-gun style of side that will be hoisting up three-pointers aplenty this year while thrilling fans throughout the country with their high-octane offense.
Tyrus McGee, Isaiah Miles, CJ Harris and Chris Johnson are all new foreign players while sharp-shooting veteran Guy Pnini, Yogev Ohayon, Rich Howell and Willy Workman round out a squad that will surely be a threat to every team this coming campaign.
Guy Goodes and his Rishon Lezion squad retained both its veteran big man Darryl Monroe and rising star Noam Dovrat, who will be looking to take another step forward this year.
Golan Gutt comes over form Ness Ziona and will be given a starring role while new imports Isaiah Taylor, Akil Mitchell and Trey Lewis will be relied on for scoring from the outside and in the paint. Noam Avivi, Tal Peled, Nimrod Tishman and Ido Flaisher will also play prominent minutes.
Up in the Galilee, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil and its coach Lior Lubin have built another contender that will look to better its Final Four appearance last season.
Guard Iftach Ziv will orchestrate the attack along with Joe Thomasson and Isaiah Cousins while Kerry Blackshear and Jehyve Floyd will provide a big 1-2 punch in the paint. Yotam Hanochi, Netanel Artzi, Amit Gershon and Benyahu Srur will also be counted on.
Hapoel Tel Aviv and coach Ioannis Kastritis will have NBA draft prospect Yam Madar, who will play alongside veteran guard Bar Timor and Joaquin Szuchman. Talib Zanna, Jon Diebler, Reggie Upshaw and Walter Lemon will all contribute as foreigners, while Daniel Koperberg and Raz Adam will also help out the Reds this season.
Ariel Beit Halachmi takes over at Hapoel Eilat and has built a squad dynamic squad led by Casey Prather, Joe Ragland, Markel Brown and Josh Nebo. Along with veteran Jonathan Skoldjebrand and up-and-coming players Ben Carter, Zuf Ben Moshe Roie Huber and Miron Ruina, the Red Sea City squad could be the surprise package of the league.
Veteran coach Brad Greenberg is back in Israel as he takes over at Ness Ziona, where he will have veteran Israelis Raviv Limonad and Tal Dunne in the saddle.
Patrick Miller, Jordan Murphy, Kwan Cheatham and Davion Berry will be relied on for scoring while Nimrod Levi, Lior Carrera, Amit Ebo and Or Cornelius will all play significant minutes.
Ironi Nahariya and Danny Franco have put together a fun team with veteran Joe Alexander leading the way together with guards Kalin Lucas and Dominic Waters and big men Devon Scott and Jaron Blossomgame. Niv Misgav will look to continue his growth along with Or Leumi and Tomar Porath.
Maccabi Haifa and coach Daniel Seoane have a budding star in Roman Sorkin up front court along with veteran Donta Smith, who can put up a triple-double on any given night. Chris Dowe, Avi Ben Shimol and Alex Chubrevich will all feature as well for the Greens.
Hapoel Beersheba and Rami Hadar have a number of naturalized Israelis on the roster, including captain Spencer Weisz, Travis Warech and Ben Eisenhardt, who will complement Eric Griffin, Caleb Agada, Amir Bell, James Banks and Amit Suss.
Sharon Drucker takes over at newly promoted Bnei Herzliya, which will rely on veteran guard Frank Gaines, Coty Clarke, Jaylen Morris, Jake Donaldson and Kendall Anthony along with Israelis Nitzan Hanochi, Gabe Levin and Isaiah Eisendorf.
Hapoel Haifa is the other newcomer to the league, with coach Elad Hasin at the helm. Jason Siggers, Keenan Evans, Rakeem Buckles and Lennard Freeman are the imports, while Karam Mashour, Amit Simhon, Igor Nestrenko, Ziv Ben Tzvi and Ofek Avital round out the side.
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 [email protected]