BSL Notebook: New signings add a twist as basketball season reaches its climax

Last week's 18th round of Israeli basketball's top flight featured several key signings.

Israel basketball 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Israel basketball 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Last week's 18th round of Israeli basketball's top flight featured several key signings that BSL teams hope will push them over the top in this year's playoffs, with only four regular season games left to play. The new additions have a variety of playing experiences, but no matter what kind of basketball background they come from, the pressure of leading their new teams to an Israeli league championship remains the same. Here is BSL Notebook's lowdown on some of the league's new faces: Ira Newble Bnei Hasharon As far as Bnei Hasharon is concerned, one of the keys to making the playoffs is having someone who has actually been there. Newble's NBA experience gives Hasharon a winner at the highest level. As a shooting guard, he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers for two seasons including their run to the NBA finals two years ago. Last year, he moved mid-season to the Seattle Sonics (now the Oklahoma Thunder) before changing teams once more to the Los Angeles Lakers. In eight seasons, Newble averaged 5.1 points per game and 2.9 rebounds. After playing behind some of the NBA's best players, he will now get his turn in Israel to lead Hasharon (10-8) in the season's final stretch. Torin Francis Hapoel Jerusalem Many remember the center for being a major force in the Big East at Notre Dame. Francis led the Fighting Irish in rebounding his junior and senior seasons, finishing with 8.6 boards per game, but after going undrafted in 2006 he moved his game to Italy. Francis originally signed with Orlandina Basket Capo D‚ Orlando, but didn't make much of an impact, averaging 6.6 points and 3.4 rebounds. His production slightly improved the next season, but decided to move his game to Greece for part of this season. Francis signed with A.E.L. for 21 games and had his best scoring average (16.5 points) since high school. The undersized Hapoel Jerusalem hopes its new 2.11 meter acquisition will give it the size it needs to compete for a championship after missing out on the Final Four last season. Francis's height and rebounding tenacity will take the burden off Jerusalem's front court despite having two of the league's top five rebounders in Travis Watson and Omar Sneed. Tyrone Grant and C.J. Bruton Ironi Ashkelon In a last ditch effort to avoid relegation at the end of the season, Ironi Ashkelon signed two players the management hope will lift the team's scoring efforts. Grant has spent most of his career playing in Italy for teams including Virtus Bologna and Armani Jeans Milano. He also has experience playing for Greece's Olympia Larissa. Ashkelon (6-12) hopes Grant's experience can lead it to the post-season. Playing in his first game for Ashkelon against Bnei Hasharon on Sunday, Grant scored five points while grabbing 11 rebounds. His rebounding is strongest on the offensive end, which should give Ashkelon more second-chance opportunities. Bruton has experience playing at the highest level. The point guard competed in two international competitions for Australia (2006 World Championships and 2008 Beijing Olympics) and even has head coaching experience. Bruton was named a part of the first team of the Australian National Basketball League this season and has won three Australian League championships. At 33, the veteran hopes to bring some of his experience to Ashkelon and make a big contribution for the team. In his first game for Eldan, he recorded eight points and four assists. With four games left in the season, Ashkelon will be relying on its new acquisitions to get it through the season. Bryant Markson Maccabi Rishon Lezion Markson is no stranger to the Israeli league. He was a late addition to Maccabi Rishon squad in 2007 after leaving Patra in Greece where he had played for part of the season. He stayed at Rishon until the end of the 2008 when he signed with Argentina's Deportivo Libertad Sunch for 15 games but has now returned to Rishon and the BSL. With Maccabi in 11th place, its team could use a familiar face in hopes of avoiding relegation at the end of this season. Rishon Lezion (5-13) is currently three games behind playoff contention. Despite its disappointing season, Maccabi gained some momentum after scaring Maccabi Tel Aviv in Monday's contest. But when Rishon coach Ofer Berkovitz just wants to stop the bleeding, having someone who knows Israeli basketball might be just what he needs. Anthony Washington Ironi Kiryat Ata The 2.05 meter center gives Kiryat Ata some much needed size after releasing Terrence Roberts, Dante Milligan and Guy Parselani from its front court. Washington had a short stint in the National Basketball Development League after averaging 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in two years for Portland State.