Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel's Most Famous Basketball Team, Signs Its First Israeli Arab Player

Karam Mashour, a Nazareth native, signs two-year deal with the Euroleague powerhouse

Maccabi Tel Aviv (in yellow) in action against Hapoel Holon, March 2017.
Maccabi Tel Aviv (in yellow) in action against Hapoel Holon, March 2017. Nir Keidar

Israel’s most famous basketball club signed its first-ever Israeli Arab player on Sunday as Karam Mashour joined Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Mashour, a 1.98-meter (6 feet 4 inches) small forward from Nazareth, played college ball with UNLV and Morehead State, but went undrafted by the NBA after graduating in 2015.

Mashour signed a two-year deal with an option for a third season. Tel Aviv said it would pay Bnei Herzliya – Mashour’s team for the past few seasons – financial compensation, and that if he would be released before his contract expires, Herzliya would have first dibs to sign him.

Mashour, who turns 26 next month, was a product of Maccabi YMCA in Nazareth.

Mashour was the Israel Super League’s discovery of the season two years ago when he first played for Bnei Herzliya, averaging 8.2 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. He shifted gears last season, ramping up his production to a league-leading 14.5 points and 10.3 rebounds a game. He helped Herzliya sweep Maccabi Tel Aviv in their three regular season meetings, but then injured his shoulder. He returned for the playoffs but could not return to form as Maccabi swept Herzliya in the quarterfinals.

Maccabi Tel Aviv has hit a dry spell in recent years, failing to win the league championship for the past three seasons, after making 22 consecutive appearances in the championship final and amassing 51 titles.

Maccabi actually signed Mashour before the season ended but, because of his shoulder injury, he failed the medical exam at the beginning of the summer. Officials in Tel Aviv decided to take him anyway.

Bnei Herzliya's Karam Mashour in a game against Hapoel Holon, January 25, 2017.
Nir Keidar

There were several other signings Sunday, including Curtis Jerrells with Hapoel Jerusalem, Michael Brisker with Hapoel Eilat and Oded Brandwein with Maccabi Rishon Letzion.

Jerrells, a point guard from Austin, Texas, signed with Hapoel Jerusalem for an additional season. The Baylor graduate joins fellow Americans Jerome Dyson and Tarence Kinsey, who also decided to stay with the 2017 league champions.

Brisker, 19, signed a three-year deal, after playing last season with Maccabi Ra’anana. Brisker’s father, Mark, played with Eilat coach Oded Katash on Maccabi Ramat Gan 24 years ago.

Brandwein extended his contract with Rishon by two years. He joined the team midseason after playing with Hapoel Tel Aviv, where he played a significant role in the team’s Final Four run. Also committed to staying with the team are Nizan Hanochi, Avi Ben-Chimol and Idan Zalmanson.

In other basketball news, Andrew Goudelock left Maccabi Tel Aviv on Saturday night for Milan. Goudelock was Maccabi’s leading scorer in the Euroleague competition, averaging 17.3 points per game.