By Stefan Djordjevic / firstname.lastname@example.org
Hapoel Unet-Credit Holon had a slow start to the season, losing the first two games in the Basketball Champions League, as well as the first three games in the Israeli League, however, the ‘Tigers’ bounced back and turned it around. Completely.
They won 12 of the last 13 games and the only loss came against Maccabi Tel Aviv, by just two points, in the Israeli League Cup Final.
“We have been working hard in practice and sticking to the coach’s game plan each game,” Tyrus McGee told Eurohoops.
The team’s streak included some highly impressive wins such as beating Maccabi in the domestic league and on top of it all, getting past AEK in the Basketball Champions League.
Hapoel was missing their top scorer in CJ Harris against the Greek team but the rest of the squad took it on their shoulders, led by McGee who banked in 18 points on 8-13 shooting (despite foul trouble) and Chris Johnson who logged 16 points along with 13 rebounds.
Competing against the elite European teams and even besting them shows that Hapoel has been perhaps underestimated when it comes to the list of title-contenders and they’ve certainly got what it takes to reach the top.
“Beating AEK was a big win for us. We knew how important it was for us and the club to win that game. We have experienced players on our team, a bunch of good guys. We need CJ each and every game and we have what it takes to compete for the trophy,” McGee said.
That win put Hapoel Holon at the top of Group C in BCL and they’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to staying there and securing their first-ever playoff appearance in the competition. It will all depend on the duel against Cholet in France. Their first clash went in Hapoel’s favor with 73-63 on the scoreboard.
“We have an opportunity to finish in a good spot, but we must stick to the game plan in order to complete that goal. We know Cholet is a great team. We have to go out and play hard for 40 minutes and see what the results are going to be.”
The game plan in question is the task of coach Stefanos Dedas who’s been at the helm of Hapoel Holon since December 2019. He reconstructed the team for this season and, although it took a while to glue everything together, it seems all the pieces are in place now.
“He has a unique coaching style. All of us players respect it and we have adapted to his style of play. We all understand him and I think he understands us as well,” the American guard explained and added. “We have a great group of guys with experience and we play well together that’s the most important thing.”
Experience hasn’t been lacking for sure. The 29-year-old McGee himself has seven seasons behind him, playing across Europe – Spain, Germany, Italy, Turkey, France – and picking up a couple of BCL campaigns before joining Hapoel this season. He won the Italian League in 2017 with Umana Reyer Venice as well as the 2019 FIBA Europe Cup with Dinamo Sassari.
Even for the experienced guys, the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic can be tough. McGee admits so as well and, while he praises BCL for a good job to make things easier, the wish for the return to normal with the fans in the stands remains.
“I think it’s been tough not just for me but for the entire world. This pandemic has changed a lot of things within a short period of time. I pray that fans, friends, and family can go back to their normal lives and for us basketball players to have fans come to our games and show support once again,” McGee noted.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League