Who said ‘you can never go home again’? They obviously didn’t tell that to Moran Roth. The Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv point guard is back home at his boyhood club this season, though the road there was not an easy one. At age 30, Roth is finally wearing the yellow-and-blue uniform he long dreamed of.
After winning titles with the Maccabi’s junior team as a teenager, Roth began his professional career in the Israeli minor leagues. His hard work paid off as he climbed the ladder, played for better and better teams, represented the Israeli national team and became one of the top playmakers in Israeli basketball. Ultimately, the call came last summer and Roth signed a multi-year deal with the Israeli champs.
“It’s a dream come true... My last year of my youth I played for Maccabi Tel Aviv and now 10 years later to come back to Maccabi Tel Aviv after a long, long way is a dream come true,” Roth summed up. “For so many years I played against them, and I beat them so many times. And now to be in Maccabi after a few years that I almost was, it’s the highest of my career. “
Roth summed up his career as follows: “I have made a lot of progress since I started at the third division. I went to second division and then first division. Then small teams and then up and up till Maccabi Tel Aviv.” The long road included eight teams in the top Israeli division alone! But he always made the most of every situation.
Despite his stature – Roth stands at 1.82 meters – he combined his speed, court vision and ball handling skills to become a top guard and one of the Israeli League’s all-time assists leaders. While compiling impressive performances throughout his career, it was clear who he saved the best for. “My best games were against Maccabi. I wanted to play my best so that one day they would sign me” Roth explained. “Every player that grows up in Israel wants to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv. It’s the best in Israel and one of the best in Europe. It’s the highest level. I am happy after the long road I travelled with so many teams in Israel to be in Maccabi Tel Aviv, so now I respect it more, value it more. “
Even before he joined Maccabi, the club had played a role in many of the great moments Roth had experienced, including a handful of David vs Goliath type victories. The biggest of them all came when he played for Hapoel Holon. “After 15 years in a row that Maccabi won the championship, in 2008 with Holon, we had a great season all over. We beat Maccabi twice during the season. And to come to the last game, the final, on their home court, for Holon, which is a small team in Israel, it was the highlight of my career till then. We beat them at the buzzer, so it was a great game. To beat Maccabi in Nokia Arena in the last second shot, the whole team came together and it was a great success.“
Although Roth had never played in the Euroleague before – or even the Eurocup – he didn’t lack confidence heading into this season and he knew to expect better basketball than he had ever previously tasted. “It’s the highest level. I know basketball and it’s the same, but it’s the highest level, the highest speed, best players in Europe. To be on the biggest stage for basketball, I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Roth has only played a limited role for Maccabi this season, but when he has been called upon, Roth has delivered. And often he has delivered assists. In fact, he ranks among the league’s top five in assists per minute with an average of 8.1 prorated over 40 minutes through Game 1 of the playoffs. His biggest game came with Maccabi needing a win in Game of the Top 16. Roth fueled a second-half rally and tallied 8 points and 6 assists in just 16 minutes as Maccabi mowed down Fenerbahce Ulker 91-73.
After that game, Roth spoke the way only a true son of the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball club could. “There's nothing that can compare with lighting up this arena. You ask if I was dreaming about this from the moment I arrived to Maccabi and I can tell you I dreamt about it from when I was 5 years old."
Roth drew praise from Coach David Blatt that night and many others as key part of the team’s second unit, which helped Maccabi bounce back from a tough start to the Top 16 to march forth into the playoffs. Now Roth will look to contribute a little bit more in the playoffs to help Maccabi reach London in another step of what is already a dream come true.