Back from the brink

Will Bynum says faith, strength of character got him through hard times.

bynum 88 (photo credit: )
bynum 88
(photo credit: )
It would be difficult to argue that any of the players on Maccabi Tel Aviv's roster have had a tougher season than Will Bynum. The 25-year-old point guard was going through the same underachieving season as the rest of the team when, just under four months ago, on January 5, he was arrested after an altercation with a group of clubbers outside a southern Tel Aviv hip hop venue. While consistently protesting his innocence, Bynum went through days of embarrassment and pain, after being accused of intentionally driving into a 22-year-old man and running him over up to three times. He was forced to go to court and walk through the building in shackles. But, despite the media frenzy surrounding the situation, Bynum put it all out of his mind and continued to play for Tel Aviv in Israel and in the Euroleague. Initially, he didn't make a massive impact, but soon he was back to his best as the yellows fought their way into the Final Four. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post after training in Madrid on Thursday, Bynum says his faith in God and strength of character got him through the tough times, which have now ended, after the charges against him were dropped. "They say when you're in situations like the situations I was in your true personality, your true character, comes out. I guess that shows what kind of person I am," he tells the Post. "I'm just so glad it is all finally over. It's just a big relief, a big stress release. [It's] like having an animal, a big bear on your back, and now its gone, it's released and I feel a whole lot better." Bynum was brought to Maccabi in the summer of 2006 by former coach Neven Spahija, who now coaches Tau Vitoria, the Spanish team playing CSKA Moscow in Friday's second semifinal. Last season was a relatively poor one for Tel Aviv, and Bynum says it was the inspiration of his father, who died last year, which has driven him on this season. "One of the things my father said to me when he was passing [away] this summer was to go back to Maccabi and try and win the Euroleague championship," he remembers. "That has been on my mind since day one, since the team got back together. Our goal was to first get to the Final Four and try and get to the championship game and, personally, I have been extremely focused on trying to do that." Clearly it hasn't been all roses for Maccabi this season, especially in the last few weeks, when the team has lost three out of four in the local league. But Bynum says he is both focused and optimistic for Friday's semifinal against Montepaschi Siena. "You know you're going to lose a few, that's basketball," he says of the team's league form. "You've got to know when you're in the Final Four there's a totally different atmosphere, a totally different thought process. Since we arrived we've only been thinking about the Final Four, from the first minute." Stressing his point that Maccabi deserves to be in the season-ending competition, Bynum adds: "There's a lot of great teams who could be here, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and we pretty much beat all of them, convincingly. We know what we have here. It doesn't matter what the media thinks, what people think. As long as the 12 guys, the coaching staff and the organization know what's going on we're fine with it." Referring to the pressure put on the club by the fans and Israelis in general, he says: "I play best when I am in pressured moments. It doesn't bother me. I'm just going to come out and play, and give it all I've got. "I'm feeling good. I'm just focused on executing and doing the things we need to do to win. Yeah its going to be tough, its going to be tough for them like its going to be tough for us. But we're a very close team. This is what everybody doesn't know. We stay together pretty much all of the time, we talk about every situation. Every guy from the first to the 12th man is ready to play tomorrow."