Last night, as I was walking towards a local restaurant to meet Herzeliya-Hasharon's newest member Trevor Booker and his business manager Oliver Hill, for a one-on-two dinner, I thought to myself, what should we focus on? The NBA lockout, Israel, his new team, the 12-hour flight, women or perhaps whether or not he brought his X-box or PlayStation for the ride?
Well, as I introduced myself to the 6-foot-7 gigantic forward/center, I came across an extremely shy, outgoing but curious and educated personality who was essentially out of his comfort zone and for the first time in his professional career, in a foreign country. Getting to know each other, I found myself being the middle man translating from Hebrew to English helping him order his first Holy-Land meal -- home fries, salad and a medium-well hamburger that included grilled onions, 'I never knew you can put grilled onions as a toping on your burger,' said Booker, 'I'm going to have to try that.' Going through the list of NBA players and recognized names currently in the league, our attention shifted towards the TV screen, showing highlights of Jordan Farmar's first game on Israeli soil, as I interrupted the meaningless narrator (Booker doesnt understand Hebrew), and asked, are you looking forward to playing anyone in particular? Lying on the somewhat comfortable couches, Booker frowned and said 'not really, I'm just focused on taking things day by day, learning from and enjoying this opportunity.' The chilled atmosphere, English conversation along with the Heinz ketchup and mustard gave Booker the impression that maybe he didnt land in Timbuktu after all. However, under the circumstances that brought him here, Booker was feeling unfortunate he didnt receive the good luck blessing from NBA coach Flip Saunders. 'The sad part about this whole situation is that due to the lockout I was unable to talk to anyone from the Wizards' management or coaching staff before coming to Israel. They couldnt even say goodbye or good luck.'
Did any of your NBA teammates talk to you before you hoped on the plane? 'Yes, I can't remember who exactly but most of my teammates wished me luck. Nick Young sent me message on Twitter and other players from teams around the league gave me a shout and took an interest.' As the in between 'small-talk' continued, the main course was served and Hill's fried chicken dish met the table, or shall we say his 'Shnitzal'. After a few good bites, we got into specifics and I tried to understand how one could possibly go from playing in the Goodman/Melo all-stars game with NBA superstars such as Kevin Durant, Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony, to hooping in the Israeli league, 6,000 miles away with less than a handful of people you know. 'NBA guys came to the Israeli league because it has good competition. I wanted to come overseas and experience playing basketball in two different countries. This is my first time doing something like this. Professionally, it doesnt really matter where or who I play against as long as I'm on the court. Now I'm here with Hasharon, I'll put in the work and give my best everyday hoping I'll be satisfied.' Accompanied by Hill, who will stay in Israel until Tuesday, assisting Booker with getting comfortable in his sixth-floor Mediterranean ocean view luxury apartment, I asked the two if they had any second thoughts about getting on the plane with all the latest NBA lockout meetings. 'We were hearing different things about the lockout. That it would go on for a while, then that the season was going to begin soon, honestly, we didnt know what to believe.' Both Booker and Hill commented.
Aside from knowing a few players in the league (Dan Grunfeld, D.J. Strawberry and Craig Brackins), in order to have a successful season, Booker will have to rely first and foremost on his teammates who have already took initiative and went over to Booker's flat welcoming their new big man. But I was still snooping, Out of all the places in Europe, why Israel? 'I've talked to other players and guys who've been here in the past and they said how nice it was and that the league has good competition. Wizards' GM Ernie Grunfeld's son Dan, who is playing here this year told me a lot about the country so overall; I'm excited to be out here. Arguably, being the biggest name to ever play for his new organizations, and only one season after former NBA vet' Lee Nailon led his team and the league in scoring, one leagues lose is definitely another's advantage and Booker, who respects his opponents, focuses on winning it all and tries to concentrate more on what his team needs to do to become successful, 'everyone is talking about Maccabi Tel-Aviv. I heard they were a good team but I definitely think we can give them a run for the title. We'll let our game speak for itself.' Oh yea, we skipped dessert.
Follow David Pick on Twitter: @Dpick_Mvd
Netanya also extend deal with Danny Franco - May 26, 2013
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Netanya have reached an agreement on terms of contract extension with head coach Danny Franco (agency: Avi Zilberman ). The Israeli specialist will work with the team for at least two more seasons. Danny Franco (agency: Avi Zilberman ) tookover Netanya in 2011. He led the team to the fourth place finish in the Premier League regular season this season. Netanya though surrendered against Hapoel Jerusalem in five game at the quarterfinal stage [read more]
Netanya have reached an agreement on terms of contract extension with head coach Danny Franco (agency: Avi Zilberman ). The Israeli specialist will work with the team for at least two more seasons. Danny Franco (agency: Avi Zilberman ) tookover Netanya in 2011. He led the team to the fourth place finish in the Premier League regular season this season. Netanya though surrendered against Hapoel Jerusalem in five game at the quarterfinal stage. Danny Franco (agency: Avi Zilberman ) used to work with Hapoel Holon, Galil Elyon, Gilboa/Migdal Haemek, Maccabi Ironi Ramat Gan before taking over Netanya. He also guided U16 and U18 Israeli National Teams. Eurobasket.com named Danny Franco (agency: Avi Zilberman ) All-Israeli League Coach of the Year in 2009. Netanya extended the deals with several players just few days ago. They kept Yehu Orland (193-G-81, agency: Ronsport), Eyal Shulman (192-PG-87) and Eliran Gueta (199-F-75, agency: Gross Zeev ISA, college: Tyler JC) on the roster for the next season.
Ironi Nes-Ziona wins National League Finals - May 24, 2013
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Hod Hasharon - Ironi Nes-Ziona 73-83 (1-3)
Ironi Nes-Ziona wins National League Finals 3-1 in the series against Hod Hasharon. Ironi Nes-Ziona looked well-organized offensively handing out 23 assists. Naturalized Welsh forward Tal Michael Dunne (197-87) fired a double-double by scoring 15 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists for the winners. Gil Amitay (197-89) chipped in 22 points and 5 rebounds. Four Ironi Nes-Ziona players scored in double figures [read more]
Ironi Nes-Ziona wins National League Finals 3-1 in the series against Hod Hasharon. Ironi Nes-Ziona looked well-organized offensively handing out 23 assists. Naturalized Welsh forward Tal Michael Dunne (197-87) fired a double-double by scoring 15 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists for the winners. Gil Amitay (197-89) chipped in 22 points and 5 rebounds. Four Ironi Nes-Ziona players scored in double figures. Nigerian power forward Chukwudinma Odiakosa (203-85, college: Illinois St., agency: N.E.T.) produced 21 points and 7 rebounds and swingman Eran Asante Asare (194-88, agency: Gross Zeev ISA) added 8 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists respectively for lost side. Top scorers: Hod Hasharon: C.Odiakosa 21+7reb+2ast, G.Dotan 14+3reb+1ast, B.Walker 10+2reb+6ast, O.Hover 8+4reb, E.Asante Asare 8+6reb+5ast, I.Stolero 7+2reb+2ast Ironi Nes-Ziona: G.Amitay 22+5reb+2ast, T.Michael Dunne 15+11reb+8ast, E.Engel 13+4reb+4ast, B.Benn 13+6reb+5ast, R.Zehavian 8+2reb+3ast, C.Tate 7+5reb
Hapoel J-M and Hapoel Eilat complete the Semifinal picture - May 23, 2013
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Netanya - Hapoel J-M 68-79 (2-3)
The guests were tied at the half but managed to speed up in last two quarters eventually winning the game. It was a great shooting night for Hapoel Jerusalem especially from behind the arc, where they had solid 66.7 percentage. American players dominated the game. Josh Duncan (203-86) orchestrated the victory with a double-double by scoring 23 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists [read more]
The guests were tied at the half but managed to speed up in last two quarters eventually winning the game. It was a great shooting night for Hapoel Jerusalem especially from behind the arc, where they had solid 66.7 percentage. American players dominated the game. Josh Duncan (203-86) orchestrated the victory with a double-double by scoring 23 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. point guard Ronald Steele (187-86, college: Alabama, agency: SportsTalent) contributed with 15 points and 4 assists for the winners. Five Hapoel Jerusalem players scored in double figures. Power forward Marco Killingsworth (203-82, college: Indiana, agency: Avi Zilberman) answered with 21 points and 5 rebounds and guard Ramel Bradley (188-85) added 14 points and 5 rebounds in the effort for GreenTops Netanya. GreenTops Netanya's coach rotated twelve players in this game, but that didn't help. Top scorers: Hapoel J-M: J.Duncan 23+10reb+5ast, R.Steele 15+1reb+4ast, R.Limonad 14+4reb, S.Samuels 11+5reb, C.Fells 11+3reb+3ast, E.Kadir 3+1reb+1ast Netanya: M.Killingsworth 21+5reb, R.Bradley 14+5reb+3ast, Y.Orland 9+2ast, R.Morgan 9+8reb+2ast, E.Shulman 8+7ast, D.Washington 5+5reb+5ast
The hosts trailed by 1 point after first quarter, but they stormed back to get the 5-point lead at the halftime and eventually won the game 91-80. Hapoel Eilat shot the lights out from three sinking 12 long-distance shots on high 63.2 percentage. They looked well-organized offensively handing out 30 assists comparing to just 15 passes made by Maccabi Rishon's players. American power forward Eli Holman (208-89, college: Detroit Mercy) orchestrated the victory by scoring 20 points and 8 rebounds. His fellow American import guard Larry O'Bannon (194-83, college: Louisville, agency: Interperformances) contributed with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists for the winners. Four Hapoel Eilat players scored in double figures. Jamaican-American power forward Adrian Uter (200-84, college: Hofstra) answered with a double-double by scoring 25 points and 12 rebounds and American forward Julian Wright (203-87, college: Kansas) added 17 points and 9 rebounds in the effort for Maccabi Rishon. Both coaches used bench players which allowed the starters a little rest for the next games. Top scorers: Hapoel Eilat: E.Holman 20+8reb+2ast, L.O'Bannon 15+7reb+6ast, S.Hopson 14+4reb+9ast, T.Younger 11+3reb, E.Skverer 9+1reb+3ast, J.Tillman 9+5reb Maccabi Rishon: A.Uter 25+12reb+2ast, J.Wright 17+9reb+2ast, A.Ben David 14+3ast, N.Hanochi 7+1reb+7ast, L.Jones 7+3reb, S.Dawson 6
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