The first episode in season two of “Inside Israeli Basketball” came out last week, running on Comcast Sports stations in the ‘States. Once again the season’s premier chapter mostly focused on Eurochallenge competitor Maccabi Haifa and a name player: This year, however, the team is not about a 17-year-old Jeremy Tyler leaving high school to play pro ball as a road to the NBA, but rather a Sylven Landesberg who eschewed a junior year at University of Virginia after a sophomore slump season to play pro ball as a road to the NBA.
Despite ditching Virginia rather cavalierly in the eyes of many, subsequently failing to go in the NBA Draft and not grabbing a spot with a D League team, Landesberg still managed to land on his feet with Maccabi Haifa. Rather than worry about a difficult transition from one culture to another that so many players crossing the ocean either way face, Landesberg received an Israeli passport by dint of his Jewish heritage via his father.
Thus in Israel, it seems that Landesberg’s main difficulties are in choosing a car and unboggling his mind after spending $200 on a stereo. See from about 18 minutes in for the Queens boy’s jump to a new lifestyle.
Landesberg memorably went for 24 points against the New Jersey Nets when Haifa toured the ‘States this autumn, and a large segment of the Israeli basketball TV magazine show is devoted to the Israel side’s U.S. travels. (Watch from about 1:20 in on the below video.) And after considering Landesburg’s American duck-out-of-water story, note the reactions and thoughts of some European players who’d never been to the big ol’ U.S. of A. before.
(Through six Ligat HaAl games, Landesberg is averaging 9.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 31.8 minutes per, but is shooting just over 33% overall shooting at 20-of-59.)
Elsewhere on the quite American-biased episode of “Inside Israeli Basketball” is a segment on Haifa tryouts in Miami, which landed Zach Evans (from Bucknell University), Brett Harvey (Loyola), Rodney Webb (Florida Atlantic) and Adrian Moss (IUPUI) gigs in Israel. Evans made it to the big club, while the others landed with second-division Haifa affiliate club Hapoel Kiryat Tyvon. Moss has since moved onto Spanish second-division side Faymasa Palencia.
Another illuminating segment focuses on Haifa’s international scouting effort in the ‘States, the Americas, Europe and beyond, as led by Federico Brodsky (see about 15 minutes in). And this and the marvelous Yarden Harel, too…
BallinEurope is going to break internet decorum a little bit here and rerun some material, if only because the audience for this story was nearly non-existent; after re-viewing this YouTube three times since last weekend, though, BiE still finds Terrell Myers’ anecdotes of basketball in England and Spain in the late 1990s/early 2000s compelling stuff.
Most interesting in contrast to Landesberg’s move – not to mention that certain high-profile import to Turkey – is Myers’ recalling life for low (basketball) profile squad Sheffield Sharks. If folks in America think TBL and Ligat HaAl are low-level leagues, they’ve got the amenities well beyond British hoops of 12 years ago.
All in all, the current St. Andrew’s College (Maryland) coach tells a story surprising in its wit and introspection. Sometimes funny (love the chicken sandwich), sometimes negative (European xenophobia can be scary) and surprising reflection of a general lack of knowledge of foreign cultures.