After a solid rookie year with CEZ Nymburk, Zach Hankins will finish the season in Israel after signing with Maccabi Rishon LeZion for the rest of the 2019-2020 season. The center out of Xavier joins the growing list of Americans being signed by Israeli teams ahead of the Winner League season's resumption in June.
Hankins had a very productive year in his first season as a pro, averaging 12.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, including an impressive 11.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game clip in the Basketball Champions League. For his efforts, Hankins was named the League Defensive Player of the year in Czechia. He'll join a LeZion team that sits comfortably in third place in the Winner League standings with a 13-8 record.
After a superb season Australia, Cameron Oliver is headed to Israel after signing with Ironi Nes Ziona. The third-year pro will finish out the season with the Israeli side after playing a full season with Cairns Taipans in Australia's National Basketball League. Oliver averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game as he helped lead the Taipans to a 16-12 record and a berth in the semifinals of the NBL playoffs. For his efforts, he was also named to the All-NBL Second Team.
This is Oliver's first season playing abroad, having spent his first two years cycling between multiple NBA and NBA G League teams, most recently with the Delaware Blue Coats from 2018-2019. He will join a Ironi Nes Ziona team that will look to improve its playoff standings when league play resumes in June, as the squad currently sits in sixth place with a 10-11 record.
Israeli team Hapoel Gilboa Galil has signed American swingman Tim Coleman through the end of the season. Coleman arrives from Finland, where the third-year pro played this season for Salon Vilpas Vikings before games stopped in Finland on March 13 before the season was later canceled.
Coleman had a fantastic season for Vilpas, leading the team to first place in the league standings with a 30-6 record while averaging 19.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game and being named the Korisliiga Player of the Year by Eurobasket.com. Playing in Israel will continue the meteoric rise that the NJIT product has had since starting his career in Luxembourg three seasons ago. He will join a Gilboa Galil team that will be in the thick of the playoff race when the league resumes in June. The team currently sits in seventh place in the league standings with a 9-12 record.
The Turkish Basketball Federation, which governs the domestic leagues in the country in addition to the national teams, has announced it will be canceling the Basketball Super League and the Turkish Basketball League, the top two men's basketball leagues in the country. No champion will be named for either league, and the final rankings and standings will be revealed at a later date. It's been noted by the federation that promotion and relegation will not be pursued in advance of next season.
The domestic leagues in Turkey had been suspended since March 19. The league had pushed the suspension through April 30 before further deliberations led to the eventual cancellation of the season.
The Israeli Winner League, the top domestic league in the country, has announced they will begin play again on June 20. The decision was made by the league's board of directors, and their proposal was approved by Israel's Health Ministry,
The Israeli League is Back
Before play can begin, there are several stages that will allow players to gradually rejoin teams and train together before going back to playing games. Included in the requirements before play even begins are:
- a two-week quarantine period for all players from May 17-31
- Practices held from June 1-20
- Games resume June 20
Once the games have resumed, the board decided that each team will play two games a week, and all games will be held in the home arenas of the clubs and without any fan attendance (previously, the league had said it would not resume if fans could not attend - that decision has since been changed). At the conclusion of the regular season, the best-of-three quarterfinal series will be played, followed by the Final Four toward the end of July. We will be following the Israeli League in the coming weeks and months as more news develops.
Americans Jacob Pullen, Isaiah Whitehead and Derek Needham have all extended their contracts with Mornar Bar in Montenegro, per several reports.
COVID-19 has upended the world in every way imaginable, and the world of international basketball has faced some unique challenges in the past few months. Since the Coronavirus has been rampant in Europe longer than it has been in the United States, international basketball players have been exposed to the struggles and difficulties of living through a pandemic long before some people in the U.S. might have known. In addition, the influx of American basketball players in other countries means that they have an interesting persepctive. Many players did come home from the countries they played in, but are returning to a situation that could be worse than the country they played in. For the next few months, Ballers Abroad will provide relevant updates on leagues, teams and how American players are impacted by this pandemic. If you have any info or tips, get in touch with us on Twitter or via email.