Text size

Maccabi Rishon Letzion was a pre-season favorite for deregulation from the Israel Basketball Association's Premier League before Malik Dixon and Ervin Dudley helped make it the surprise team during the first half of the season.

Dixon and Dudley could be the best inside-outside threat in all of Israeli basketball. Dixon, who played in the French and Italian leagues prior to arriving here, leads the league in scoring at 28 points a game and is second in assists. Dudley is the league leader in rebounds. Together, the two foreigners led Rishon to the league's third spot until a recent four-game losing skid sent it downward, and cost coach Hanoch Mintz his job earlier this week.

Several publications chose Dixon as league MVP in the first half of the season. The 1.87-meter point guard has been the talk of the league, especially following his 34-point performance in the team's shocking 103-97 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv last month. The 29-year-old Dixon is a graduate of University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where he was the backcourt mate of Derek Fisher, the former Los Angeles Laker guard. Dixon has a deadly three-point shot, is an excellent penetrator, and gives the sense that he can take over a game anytime and score at will.

Although the rest of the league may have been surprised by Dixon's success, Mintz was not. "I knew exactly the type of talent we had in Malik," the former coach said recently. If Mintz had any complaint against the star, it was that he wanted him to do less. "Malik has a tendency to take too much upon himself. I'd like to see him do less sometimes so his teammates would be forced to work harder."

Dudley, Rishon's "inside threat," is averaging 19.3 points and 12 rebounds a game. A serious leg injury kept him on the shelf for a year and a half, making this his first professional season since graduating two years ago from the University of Alabama, where he was known for rebounding and consistency.

"Erwin is really a rookie," Mintz said. "When he came here, he didn't know how to run a pick and roll, and he has to do a lot of work on his hand and footwork." If Mintz wanted to see Dixon do less, the reverse was true regarding Dudley. "In college, they wanted Erwin to pull down rebounds, score 14 points, and let the guards do the scoring. I'd like to see him get more aggressive. He's capable of scoring over 20 points a game and becoming one of the two best big men in Israel."