Sinai Says: Scheyer bent on hanging on

In the midst of a slow start at Maccabi, Jon Scheyer refuses to let his spirit be broken.

Jon Scheyer (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jon Scheyer
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Even in his worst nightmares, Jon Scheyer never dreamed that the start to his Maccabi Tel Aviv career would look quite like this.
It’s one thing to fail to impress, but it’s completely different when you are not even deemed to be good enough to be on court.
Scheyer was expected to be an important piece in the Maccabi puzzle, but rather than becoming a significant contributor like many predicted he would, the 24-year-old guard has so far been a complete non-factor.
Maccabi has already played 17 games in all competitions this season – seven in the Adriatic League and five each in the Euroleague and BSL.
Scheyer, who took Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return to join Maccabi in the summer, has only taken part in 10 of those games and has yet to make his Euroleague debut.
In four BSL games, Scheyer has averaged 11.5 minutes and 4.3 points, which is quite impressive when you consider that in six Adriatic outings he has posted 8.5 minutes and 0.7 points.
But that’s not even the worst of it.
Matters have actually gone from bad to worse for Scheyer since Maccabi decided to bring in Keith Langford to bolster its back-court options, with Jon watching four of Maccabi’s last five games in civilian clothes.
He has found himself the odd man out time and again in recent weeks, with coach David Blatt not even giving him a chance to prove his worth.
Blatt had coveted Scheyer since he graduated from Duke University in 2010 after leading it to the NCAA Championship in his senior year, averaging 18.2 points, 4.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game.
Despite being named as a second- team All-American by ESPN, Scheyer was not selected in the 2010 NBA draft. But there seemed to be little doubt that he had what it took to be a key player for Maccabi.
However, with every passing day, more and more questions arise regarding his chances of succeeding in Tel Aviv.
To his credit, he is refusing to allow his current situation to break his spirit.
“I’m just working hard and staying ready,” he told me on Tuesday.
“The expectations are put there by other people. I want to have an opportunity to contribute and help the team. That is all I control right now.”
Despite believing that he is playing better than ever, Scheyer has no complaints regarding the way he is being treated by Blatt.
“I’m not disappointed,” he said. “We have a lot of great players. Of course there is also a learning transition coming over to Europe, and I think I have learned a lot since I’ve been here. I think I have become a better player.
“It is a different game in college. You grow up your entire life playing one way and it is just small things you need to learn. It is tough to get used to and it comes with time, but I feel a lot better.”
After going undrafted in 2010, Scheyer went on to play for the Miami Heat during the Summer League, but he had to undergo surgery to repair damage to his right retina after taking an elbow to his eye during his second game.
He went on to try his luck at the Los Angeles Clippers’ training camp in September, but with his eye not yet fully healed, he was waived, and he eventually joined the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, averaging 11.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 16 games for the Houston Rockets’ D-League team.
Scheyer has had to wear goggles to protect his eye since the injury, but he said that the serious setback has played no factor in his struggles at Maccabi.
He isn’t even considering leaving Tel Aviv on loan for a team that would give him more playing time and remains optimistic that it won’t be much longer before he finally gets his chance.
“My whole career people have had doubts and questioned me,” he said. “I don’t worry about that stuff. I don’t listen to that. I just stay on the path that is best for me. I feel confident that in the long run things will work out.
“I feel I’m definitely a better player. I think with experience you get better. I feel great with where my game is at. I’m waiting for my chance. I need to stay ready. I can’t comment on playing time, but I’m happy I’m here and I think I have come a long way since I’ve arrived.”
Scheyer is doing his best to remain upbeat, but at the moment it is hard to see how he will break into Blatt’s lineup.
As things currently stand, Maccabi doesn’t even dress him in most games.
Scheyer “loves” Tel Aviv and says his time in Israel has been a “great experience,” but his patience is going to be tested to the limit at Maccabi.
Blatt may suddenly decide that Scheyer should be a starter, but if the early signs are anything to go by, it is going to be a long and frustrating season for a player that was on the top of the world just last year.
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