Puerto Rican guard pushes Galil
The basketball fortunes of Galil Elyon have risen again after a downturn in recent years, with the club currently in third place in the Premier League, sporting an 11-7 record.
The basketball fortunes of Galil Elyon have risen again after a downturn in recent years, with the club currently in third place in the Premier League, sporting an 11-7 record. But while NBA scouts have been watching Lior Eliyahu playing over the rim, Christian Dalmau has kept his feet firmly on the ground and has been just as responsible for his team's revival.
Dalmau, a 1.94m combination guard from Puerto Rico, has been a most pleasant surprise for Galil all season. Dalmau is versatile, aggressive and highly dependable. The 27-year-old Dalmau, Galil's oldest player, is a good outside shooter and extremely skilled at driving to the basket and finishing. His 15 points and 4 assists a game and rock solid consistent play have provided the ballast for rookie coach Oded Katash's very young squad.
Equally adept at both guard positions, Dalmau did an excellent job of taking over the playmaking role in Europe League competition this season, after the team's regular point guard, Michael Johnson, had been declared ineligible to play.
While Puerto Rico is better known for its exceptional baseball players - with many starring in Major Leagues Baseball in the United States - the fact that the small Caribbean island is actually a basketball hotbed is a well-kept secret.
"People don't realize it," says Dalmau, "but basketball is by far the most popular sport in Puerto Rico. Everywhere you go, you see kids dribbling a ball."
Once every four years that secret comes out when the Puerto Rican squad gives the USA headaches in Olympic competition. In Athens it was more like a migraine, as Puerto Rico laid a 92-73 pasting on a U.S. squad composed of NBA stars.
Dalmau was a member of that Olympic team, which eventually took 6th place in the tournament. He appeared in five of the eight games, but not the storied upset of the Americans.
Dalmau has been professional basketball player since age 15 almost exclusively in Puerto Rico, and this is his first time playing outside of Latin America. The Puerto Rican pro league is on a very low level compared with Europe, so this a big opportunity for Dalmau. "It's very good for me to get away from Puerto Rico and compete in Europe," he says.
Accustomed to playing the point guard for all his career, Dalmau is actually adjusting to a new position here, playing as the second guard along side Michael Johnson. Even though Dalmau enjoys the luxury of playing with a teammate as talented as Johnson, he admits, "It's been easier for me to play in our Europe League games then in the Israeli League, cause then I'm in control of our offense." Dalmau's professional development has received an unexpected boost from playing for Katash.
"I came within 10 minutes of signing with a Polish team," explained Dalmau, "but I'm not sorry I came to Galil at all."
Dalmau had never heard of Katash before arriving here, and was unaware that his new coach was arguably the greatest basketball talent in the history of Israel, and only the NBA lockout of 1999 and a devastating knee injury kept him from a probable NBA career.
"Once I saw him get on the court with us, I realized he knew basketball and playing the point inside out," said Dalmau of his coach. "I've never learned so much about basketball in my life."