When it comes to the 2017-18 edition of Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, the question is more “what’s old?” than “what’s new?” Twenty-two-year-old power forward Itay Segev, who was limited to just seven EuroLeague games last season due to injury, is the only returning player from that Maccabi squad back for the start of the current season. The roster turnover also includes a new coaching staff, though that is full of men with Maccabi ties. Head coach Neven Spahija led Maccabi in the 2006-07 campaign, assistant Guy Goodes is a former Maccabi player and head coach and new assistant Tal Burstein won three European crowns as a starter on the great Maccabi teams of the start of the century. There are three more players with past Maccabi experience; Alex Tyus, who helped the club win the EuroLeague in 2014, returns after two years away. Big man Jake Cohen is also back after a two-year hiatus and teenage swingman Yovel Zoosman will join the rotation after a year away on loan. The remaining nine players - Pierre Jackson, Norris Cole, DeAndre Kane, Michael Roll, John DiBartolomeo, Art Parakhouski, Jonah Bolden, DeShaun Thomas and Karam Mashour – are all new to the club and six of them are new to the EuroLeague, too.
There is no shortage of firepower in this backcourt and potentially even a few triple-double threats! Pierre Jackson was virtually unstoppable in his two-game stint in the EuroCup last season with Cedevita Zagreb and will look to prove himself as a go-to guy at the highest level. New to the EuroLeague, Norris Cole is a two-time NBA champ who once in college came within an assist of a triple-double. A defensive ace to boot, Cole teams with Jackson to form a dynamic backcourt duo. DeAndre Kane, who missed a triple-double by just 2 assists with Nizhny Novgorod in the EuroCup last season, is likely the sixth man. His sweet passing and all-around game compliment those around him. Michael Roll will help create space for all of them as the designated shooter and he is also an underrated passer. Reigning Israeli League MVP John DiBartolomeo has fought his way from small college to the EuroLeague and his work ethic plus good shooting and ball-handling could make him a crowd favorite at Maccabi for years to come. Young Yovel Zoosman, who was one of the stars on Israel’s silver-medal winning squad at the U20 European Championship over the summer, will look to earn minutes as the season progresses.
Alex Tyus was a key reserve on Maccabi’s 2014 title-winning squad and is back to anchor the defense with his shot-blocking prowess and to thrill the crowds with his high-flying alley-oops. Tyus will team with Art Parakhouski at the center spot. Parakhouski is an old school, low-post player, who while lacking foot speed, is a great rebounder and rim protector. Jonah Bolden was selected as the Adriatic League Top Prospect last season and will be tested in his first season on the EuroLeague, but with the shooting stroke of a guard and the size of a center, he may emerge as a star. Veteran DeShaun Thomas will take advantage of any defense that sags off him to bury jumpers from the perimeter, which he has already done effectively for three EuroLeague teams. Karam Mashour is an undersized power forward with a never-ending motor, which he used to lead the Israeli League in rebounding last season. Sweet shooting Jake Cohen and rugged Itay Segev, who was just named team captain, give the coaching staff more options inside.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Jonah Bolden’s name has been on the lips of talent scouts across the globe over the past year and now the 21-year-old forward hopes to show what all the fuss is about. Bolden left his native Australia for the United States as a 17-year old and enrolled at UCLA, but after sitting out one season he was unhappy with how things went his second season and Bolden decided to come to Europe. Bolden signed for Serbian side FMP and it proved to be a great fit. He averaged 12.9 points on 41.9% three-point shooting plus 7.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks in 25 Adriatic League games after which he was voted Adriatic League Top Prospect. Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade swooped in after the season and signed Bolden to a multi-year deal, but when his stock continued to rise over the offseason with impressive summer league performances, Maccabi stepped in, bought out Bolden’s deal with Zvezda and signed the forward for itself. Now Bolden has an opportunity to shine among the best as he makes his EuroLeague debut.
Maccabi always has some things going for it; a rich tradition, passionate fan base and dependable management. It was the latter of those three that decided to turn over the roster after the team’s worst season this century and to put together a coaching staff with people that understood the club’s commitment to excellence. Even so, it will be an uphill battle with an almost entirely new roster and seven players with no previous EuroLeague experience. On the other hand, great coaching, superb fan support and the undeniable talent and depth on the roster could be just the recipe to get Maccabi back to contending for titles, which is what the fans expect and demand in Tel Aviv.