Niagara alumni guard Bilal Benn (196-G/F-86), traveled to Portugal and Lithuania before leaving a strong mark on Israel's national league. Ironi Nes-Ziona recruited Benn midseason last year and have now, led by Ben's dominant overall performances, qualified for Israel's Basketball Superleague, after winning the minor-league playoffs finals series 3:1. Ben was named Most Valuable Player. One of the main reasons that Nes Ziona's 2012-2013 campaign was so succesfull was benn super play. He led his team in almost all categories , scoring 19 points , grabing 9.7 rebounds and dishing 4.4 assists per game and showed that he is ready to play at much higher level.
1. you had an outstanding season personal wise and team wise. Sum up the season in your words.
"very emotional and physically draining because you always want more for yourself and I'm somebody whose never satisfied with my game and no matter how good I'm doing I'm always trying to figure out how can I be better all the time and sometimes it can hurt my game.. My team with through alot of struggles with ourselves and we got on one page quickly when we brought Cyrus Tate on the team".
2. You arrived here mid of last season, what are the differences between this year's team to last year's and what were the reasons for the team to move up to the Premier (Winner) league?
"Alot of differences . add on more players who can help us rather then only help there stats, the coach was more relaxed in knowing and trusting me from the start rather then waiting till the end. Just having one goal was to win the championship... Mentally I was great this year nothing could really break my faith in myself this season... And all my teammates came prepared they had a great summer also.. We just worked so hard individually and as a team That made us very strong".
3. You played with a serious injury the last playoff games - how much did it affect you and were you not afraid to risk your career by making it worst?
"It affected me alot... Specially knowing I could just risk a injury more but to know I didn't even try and let myself and my team down , I think that would hurt more then anything . My knee will heel we knew that all I have to do is strengthen it this summer it wasn't anything a surgery could do... And yes that cross my mind but I have alot of faith God brought me this far all season I do think he was gonna let anything happen to me.. I joke around alot and say I played with a halo on my head this season bc it was alot of times I was close to getting hurt and moved just In time .. So I was blessed to be able to down the stretch in the games just forget about it during money time".
4. Before you came here you have played at Portugal first league and Lithuania's. What are the differences between those and the second league here?
"Just the style of play really.. Lithuania I loved the league it was really league for men.. The toughness the whole european style I loved it.. The Intelligents is amazing .. The best shooters I ever seen ...also my coach didn't speak English so it was different ... But yea the league itself is great they really bring ya game out and make u better over there... Portugal was more of older guys and not so fast run a play .. Israel second league is more of everybody wants to score , so it kinda made it easier for me this year bc I've always done the little things my career so when I added scoring to it , it made everything in my game come together".
5. What do you think about the level of basketball in Israel and what do you think about how Israel sees its basketball?
"Honestly it's like playing in college..style of play is similar to me... I think they mirror they game after the USA alot... And the NBA".
6. As an American citizen, what do you think about Israel as a country after living here for more than a year and how would you explain the situation here to people as the states?
"Oh people from home if u live close to tel aviv your gonna love it it reminds me of cali alot.. The food is great people are great.. U can shop do whatever you want ... A beach is everywhere it's like playing in paradise".
7. Do you feel that the time period as Ness Tziona helped you to develop your skills and if so, how exactly?
"Yes I do , my coach has helped me so much to learn the point guard position . Just making a easy pass rather then looking for something more..and letting my teammates make choices rather then me trying to force a pass.. And just my confidence this year.. No matter how bad I played I had the ball in my hands at the end of the game and it's no better feeling then knowing u missed ten shots and ya coach know u gonna make the last one.....People don't know I had the keys to my gym the team gave me so I could work on my game whenever I wanted to the point where they told me I couldn't be in the gym after 12 midnight bc I would go in all kinds of hours ".
8. Since you are playing here for a season and a half, have you seen games of the Israeli Winner League, what do you think of the level? Do you think there are differences between the First league and the Second league? If so, what are they?
"Of corse better players more Americans.. I think it's a great league.. I think it's more space to do ya thing because the shooters are so great in the first league so they can't help as much.. Really a opportunity to show ya game and become a great teammate and passer.... But the talent level is thru the roof... I mean look at the rosters NBA is all over it"
9. During the time playing at the Second league, did First division league showed interest in you?
"I have no idea I tell my agents if nobody is making a offer don't even tell me because its a waste of time.. It's like getting ya first d1 letter from college it don't mean they want you your just on the mailing list incase you become a great player".
10. Do you want to continue playing for Ness Tziona at the Winner league or maybe any other team? Which First league teams you are most impressed of?
"If the details of my contract are good for me yes but I will seek my options. My teams to watch is hopeal tel aviv, maccabii, Netanya ,eliat,haifa, they all play together well... I don't know it's about timing and situation ...and if the coach will let me play my game".
11. You are a very versatile player and can play few positions, which position is your favorite?
"Love playing the point guard... Just love having the ball in my hands.. I worked hard to develop that skill.. People forget I played it In hs alot and at Villanova only when I got to Niagara I didn't play it because of four guard offense and I was the biggest guard by 4 inches ".
12. You have started playing college basketball for a big program at Villanova and transferred after two years to Niagara and became a key player over there. Looking back, how important was that move for you and did it affect your pro career?
"Yes it was very important my coach joe from Niagara was like a father from the jump he said we going to live in die with the player you are.. I can remember my first maac game he told me before I left out the locker room he said don't worry about nothing you've done everything we asked you to do just forget about everything and have fun I had 26 and 16 rebounds .. Like just him alone was important for my pro career he still messages me email all day .. It was the best move... But I learned so much from Villanova .. That's why I rebound how I do and the Intense game I bring is bc of playing there and being a winner.. I seen Randy Kyle mike and allan ray do it it would only rub off on me and I took it to Niagara with me... So both school had a huge affect on the player I am Niagara made my pro career"
13. Which players influenced you the most since you started to play basketball and who are your role models?
"Mustafa shakur from Arizona , Randy foye from Villanova and alvin willams that was with the raptors those have the most Influence on my game I'm good friends with them and watched them play a million times... And those the guys I look up to.. MY grandmother and uncles are my role models as far as off the court but on the court those guys".
14. What is your dream and what is your next move in your career?
"My dream my dreams are limited I have goals.. My goals is to one day walk in a NBA locker room rather it be practice or game and have benn on the back of the jersey..I Just want a chance a real chance not just okay we brung you in just to be here . Like they analyze me as a player and tell me if I am or not a NBA player.. And whatever the result I can live with Ima real reality type of person and I can handle the truth I handled it all my life.. And it got me my first championship every time somebody has said he can't do this I prove the wrong so I'm waiting on the next critique but till then ima enjoy this Championship".
Recap of National League Round 2 of Semi-Finals - 2 days ago
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Maccabi H/H - Ironi Nes-Ziona 105-99 Maccabi Hod Hasharon rallied past Ironi Nes-Ziona to even the series at 1-1. Great defensive blocking was one of the keys in this match when Hasharon made 7 blocks. 29 personal fouls committed by Ironi Nes-Ziona helped opponents get some easy free throw opportunities. Power forward Carmel Bouchman (205-91, college: Temple) had a double-double by scoring 25 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks to lead the charge for the winners and point guard Oded Shaasho... [read more]
Maccabi Hod Hasharon rallied past Ironi Nes-Ziona to even the series at 1-1. Great defensive blocking was one of the keys in this match when Hasharon made 7 blocks. 29 personal fouls committed by Ironi Nes-Ziona helped opponents get some easy free throw opportunities. Power forward Carmel Bouchman (205-91, college: Temple) had a double-double by scoring 25 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks to lead the charge for the winners and point guard Oded Shaashoua (186-82) chipped in 33 points (!!!) and 5 assists during the contest. Four Hasharon players scored in double figures. Gil Amitay (197-89) responded with 33 points (!!!) and 9 rebounds and naturalized Welsh Tal-Michael Dunne (196-87) scored 21 points and 5 rebounds. Top scorers: Maccabi H/H: O.Shaashoua 33+1reb+5ast, C.Bouchman 25+13reb+1ast, S.Warren 22+13reb+1ast, V.Teel 18+4reb+8ast, I.Simin 5+6reb+5ast, S.Basis 2 Ironi Nes-Ziona: G.Amitay 33+9reb+3ast, T.Michael Dunne 21+5reb+2ast, L.Roberts 21+5reb+2ast, G.Gutt 8+1reb+3ast, E.Hofman 7+3reb+5ast, J.Beal 4+2reb+1ast
Hapoel B/S topped Hapoel K/S to level things up at 1-1 in the series. Americans were the main players on the court. Power forward Jeff Allen (201-87, college: Virginia Tech) notched a double-double by scoring 21 points and 15 rebounds to lead the effort and swingman Jason Williams (198-83, college: UTEP) supported him with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Even 18 points and 7 rebounds by forward Terrence Watson (200-87, college: Ball St.) did not help to save the game for Hapoel Kfar Saba. Guard Denzel Livingston (193-93, college: Incarnate Word) added 10 points and 14 rebounds for the guests. Both teams had four players each who scored in double figures. Top scorers: Hapoel B/S: J.Allen 21+15reb+3ast, Y.Bet-Yosef 14+5reb+4ast, J.Williams 11+12reb+3ast, D.Shamriz 10+6reb, T.Ariely 5+3reb+3ast, J.Lewis 4+1reb+1ast Hapoel K/S: T.Watson 18+7reb+2ast, M.Ruina 15+2reb+3ast, D.Livingston 10+14reb+1ast, A.Cohen 10+10reb+4ast, G.Gilinski 7+3reb+1ast, I.Davidi 3+1reb
Maccabi Kiryat Gat (Winner League) signed 28-year old forward Elad Knafo (197-89). It is actually his comeback to Kiryat Gat as he has played here before. Knafo He started the season at Hapoel Hevel Modi'in, the newcomer in Artzit. Knafo helped his team to make it to the National League Final in 2007. He has played previously for six other teams: Ironi Nahariya, Maccabi Ashdod, Hapoel Beeri, Elitzur Yavne, Hapoel Afula and Maccabi Ma'ale Adumim. [read more]
Maccabi Kiryat Gat (Winner League) signed 28-year old forward Elad Knafo (197-89). It is actually his comeback to Kiryat Gat as he has played here before. Knafo He started the season at Hapoel Hevel Modi'in, the newcomer in Artzit. Knafo helped his team to make it to the National League Final in 2007. He has played previously for six other teams: Ironi Nahariya, Maccabi Ashdod, Hapoel Beeri, Elitzur Yavne, Hapoel Afula and Maccabi Ma'ale Adumim.
Maccabi Hunter Haifa (Winner League) agreed terms with 28-year old Israeli center Anton Shoutvin (206-95kg-89). It is actually his comeback to Maccabi Haifa as he has played here before. Shoutvin He started the season at Iskra Svit in Slovakian SBL league. In 41 games he had very impressive stats: 15.6ppg, 5.7rpg and 1.2apg this season. Shoutvin helped them to make it to the Slovakian Cup Semifinals. The last season he played at Hapoel Beer Sheva (National League) where in 29 games he rec... [read more]
Maccabi Hunter Haifa (Winner League) agreed terms with 28-year old Israeli center Anton Shoutvin (206-95kg-89). It is actually his comeback to Maccabi Haifa as he has played here before. Shoutvin He started the season at Iskra Svit in Slovakian SBL league. In 41 games he had very impressive stats: 15.6ppg, 5.7rpg and 1.2apg this season. Shoutvin helped them to make it to the Slovakian Cup Semifinals. The last season he played at Hapoel Beer Sheva (National League) where in 29 games he recorded 12.1ppg, 4.9rpg and 2.4apg. Quite impressive season as he was named to Israeli National League All-Star Game and All-Domestic Players Team. Shoutvin represented Israel at the World University Games in Shenzhen (China) six years ago. His stats at that event were 7 games: 12.1ppg, 5.4rpg, FGP: 47.6%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 66.7%. Shoutvin has played previously professionally in Germany (USC Freiburg) and Israel (Galil Gilboa, Ironi Nahariya, Maccabi Ashdod, Benyamina and Elitzur Yavne).
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