Maccabi Tel Aviv's 82-61 romp over Gilboa/Galil this week, while basically a warm-up for the Euroleague playoffs, was also a homecoming of sorts for Maccabi guard Jeremy Pargo.
The 1.88m, 24-year-old Chicago native, a key figure on Gilboa/Galil's Premier League championship squad last season, returned to Gan Ner, this time as a member of Maccabi's starting lineup central to the team's transformation.
While getting a warm welcome from the home crowd, Pargo did admit that playing in front of 12,000 fans is more exciting than the 2,000 seats in Gan Ner's tiny gym, and for a big city guy like himself, Tel Aviv is a preferable place to be.
Pargo joined as a replacement for Alabama University rookie Mikhail Torrence, who suffered a serious illness during the summer after agreeing terms with Maccabi. Not everyone is aware that Pargo was at the center of Maccabi's radar screen even before the Torrence signing, but he preferred trying his luck in the NBA Summer League.
"We were really impressed by Jeremy's explosiveness to the basket and ability to create opportunities on offense as well as the fact that he had a year's experience in international ball under his belt", explained Maccabi coach David Blatt. "He was the two-way guard we are always interested in, who can exert a lot of energy on both offense and defense."
When trials with Charlotte and Minnesota failed to produce a contract, Maccabi and Pargo were fortunate enough to meet up again after Torrence went down.
From 'go to' guy to cog in the wheel
Pargo was the "go to" guy in Gilboa/Galil's offense last season, including a 36-point outburst in an upset win over Hapoel Jerusalem, but for Maccabi he is an important cog in a balanced attack. Although averaging 10 points a game, five fewer points than last year, he's playing under more control and has exhibited better shot selection.
Before the season, skeptics questioned how Pargo would mesh with his new backcourt partner Doron Perkins, particularly after the drop in his production and effectiveness when Gilboa/Galil brought Gal Mekel in midseason to take over the bulk of their ballhandling.
Instead, the Pargo-Perkins tandem has thrived. Together they apply constant pressure on the opposition, creating the havoc, turnovers and easy opportunities, which are an integral part of coach Blatt's system of play.
Maccabi's backcourt is one of the main reasons they have taken the Euroleague by surprise and have a strong chance of a run in this year's playoffs.
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