After a disappointing 2015-16 campaign both in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and on the homefront, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv decided to overhaul its roster and did not hold back. The changes started at the top with the hiring of head coach Erez Edelstein and continued with the signings of seven big name players with experience at the highest levels, although one of them, forward Quincy Miller, may miss the entire season due to injury. Headlining the list are elite scorers and former All-EuroLeague selections Andrew Goudelock and Sonny Weems. Forward
Victor Rudd lands in Tel Aviv after earning an All-EuroCup nod last season. Center Maik Zirbes comes off a breakout campaign in the EuroLeague, while forward Joe Alexander brings his high0flying abilities back for a second stop in Tel Aviv and guard D.J. Seeley will look to establish himself as an elite three-point marksman.
After joining the team midway through last season, point guard Gal Mekel now has an entire campaign to showcase his abilities. No player has featured more for Maccabi over the past five seasons than Yogev Ohayon, who likely will return to the role of backup point guard this season. Another veteran and fan favorite, small forward Devin Smith, brings great leadership and an all-around game that should help his new teammates on the wings, Goudelock and Weems, to fit in quickly. Both players can hit from the outside and slash to the bucket, which may wreak havoc on opposing defenders. Sylven Landesberg gives Coach Edelstein another option for instant offense, while Seeley and shooting guard Dagan Yivzori, the latter of whom looks to prove himself after an injury-plagued debut season for Maccabi, are top-notch three-point marksmen.
Three-pointers won’t only be raining in from the guards for Maccabi this season as Rudd,
Guy Pnini and Alexander are also stretch fours. Rudd and Alexander have also shown themselves to be strong rebounders, too. If Miller was fortunate enough to return quickly from his knee surgery, he could provide a late season bonus. Zirbes, who was an interior force for Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade last season, becomes the go-to guy in the paint. After getting his feet wet last season, Itay Segev will be called upon to back up Zirbes this year.
With a new coach and so many new players, Maccabi may need some time before everything comes together. Fortunately for Coach Edelstein and co., the team will not face any of last season’s Final Four teams over the first month until a Round 7 home date with Goudelock’s former team, Fenerbahce Istanbul. However, if all goes according to plan, once everything starts to click, Maccabi has the potential to unleash a lethal attack that should result in attractive, exciting and high-scoring basketball.
PLAYER TO WATCH
From the point in time that Gal Mekel joined Maccabi last season, he immediately became one of the team’s bets weapons both as a scorer and a facilitator. Going into a new season, the great amount of scoring punch around him may leave Mekel to set up other around him more, but that should not make him any less effective. In fact, Mekel’s natural playmaking will make it tough for defenses to ever hedge against any option whether it be a shooter in the corner, big man down low or a cutter from the wings. And if defenders choose to sag, Mekel is not shy about getting his own points either. The Maccabi roster features six players who averaged double figures in scoring in either the EuroLeague or EuroCup last season and 13 who have averaged at least 9.5 points per game over a EuroLeague or EuroCup season in the past. It could end up on Mekel’s shoulders to share the ball with all of them, which if done correctly could make Maccabi a real contender.