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Earlier this week, Maccabi Tel Aviv signed Cornell center Jeff Foote to a multi-year contract as returning coach David Blatt leaves no stones unturned in strengthening Maccabi for both the long-term and immediate future.

College basketball fans will probably remember the 22-year-old, 7-foot (2.12m ) Foote as one of the main contributors to Cornell's Cinderella season this past year. The Big Red (29-5 ) swept through the Ivy League and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Kentucky.

A borderline NBA prospect, Maccabi signed Foote in the hope that he'll one day develop into a dominant Euroleague big man.

"Whenever you find an intelligent 7-footer, with a big upside, great court sense and passing skills, as well as a high activity level, you have to take a chance that he might develop into a dominant player in the future," Blatt told Haaretz yesterday.

Foote is a classic back-to-the-basket center, who possesses agility and shot-blocking skills, along with a soft touch. Though he averaged a modest 12 points and eight rebounds per game while shooting over 60 percent from the field this past season, his stats came within the context of a team-oriented offense, something Blatt - a fellow Ivy Leaguer from Princeton - is very familiar with.

Foote started his collegiate basketball career as a walk-on at St. Bonaventure, also located in New York. He then red-shirted and transferred to Cornell. His best game last season

was scoring a season-high 28 points and pulling down 18 rebounds at Bucknell in December.

As the learning curve from NCAA basketball to the Euroleague is unusually steep, Maccabi spend the summer orienting Foote to their program, while also evaluating his readiness to contribute to his new team. Foote's ability to hold his own against the strong, physical big men prevalent in European basketball will also be evaluated and, according to Blatt, "this could also include getting him involved in a strengthening program."

Maccabi's new center joins Tal Burstein and Elishay Kadir in the first wave of many expected newcomers who will arrive this summer as Maccabi attempts to regain its traditional role of prominence in European basketball.