On Sunday, some 150 spectators in Ramot, Jerusalem were treated to an exciting basketball game in the men's masters (35+) division of the Maccabiah Games. The game was not without drama, as the style of play was physical and aggressive, much like schoolyard ball on the streets of New York or Moscow. In the end, Team U.S.A. prevailed over Team Russia, by a score of 77-70.
Team U.S.A. got off to an early lead, but were in arrears at the end of the first quarter, 19-15, and Russia's Sergei Mostovshchikov (10 points) made an incredible three-pointer at the buzzer. At the half, Russia was still leading, 36-30, but the Americans regrouped after the half, and Sean Mann scored his only basket to tie the game at 36 apiece. Richard Schnall scored an easy lay-up to put some icing on the cake, and there was no looking back, as Team U.S.A. led 60-50 at the end of the third quarter. Their lead improved to 14 points, 71-57 in the 4th quarter, and after a few tense moments, they prevailed to win by 7 points, 77-70. The leading scorers for Team U.S.A. were: David Shabsels-18 points, Adam Carl-17 points, and Richard Schnall-13 points. The leading scorers for Russia were Stanislav Markov-18 points and Roman Shaknovich-13 points.
Head coach of the American squad is none other than Danny Schayes, who at 6'11" was the tallest ever Jewish NBA player, and who enjoyed an 18-year career in the world's top league. He is no stranger to Israel or the Maccabiah Games, having been a player himself and celebrating his bar mitzvah at Masada. He, his wife Wendy, a former Olympic diver, and their son are here for the Maccabiah Games.
When asked what the difference between being a player and a coach is, Schayes replied, "As a coach I have greater responsibility to my team." He added, "I have a great team of older guys with great chemistry." When asked who his best player was, Schayes responded, "We actually have a very balanced team."
The highlight of Danny's NBA career was "When I was with the Magic when Shaq went to the LA Lakers. His first game back at Orlando, I was the starting center at 39 years old. Shaq was out for blood. I had a big game against him and we won at the buzzer. The stadium erupted as if we won the championship. I scored 12 or 14 points that game."
When asked about his projection for the Maccabiah Games this summer, Schayes said, "Our goal is to win it." When asked to comment about Israel's first NBA player, Omri Casspi, he had this to say: "I love his effort...he's been effective."
It's apparent that Team U.S.A., with their effort in Sunday night's game against Russia, will be earning accolades from Schayes, too.