Wheeler, Bracey, Kennedy Spark Herzliya Comeback

Bnei Herzliya point guard Tyson Wheeler is no stranger to rescuing teams that have hit rock bottom. As a college star at the University of Rhode Island (1994-8), Wheeler led one of college basketball's most wretched programs, from a 7-21 record to a place in the NCAA's Final Eight within four seasons.

At the moment, Wheeler and Bnei Herzliya's two other American mid-season replacement players, Bryan Bracey and Andrew Kennedy, are leading their team to new-found respectability, after a horrendous 0-10 start. Herzliya has been the surprise of the premier basketball league during the last month and a half, winning three of its last four games, including victories over top teams such as Ironi Ramat Gan and Hapoel Jerusalem. A last-minute loss to Galil Elyon this week is the only blemish on their

record during this period.

In two of those victories, Wheeler, who had a brief stint with the NBA's Denver Nuggets in 1999, was dominant and named the league's Player of the Week. The diminutive (for a basketball player) Wheeler (1.80 meters) is a skilled penetrator, who sets up his teammates while controlling the offense. He's an erratic outside shooter, but can take over games - when he's on.

Speaking with Anglo File earlier this week, Wheeler modestly attributed Herzliya's improvement to "better team defense and cutting down turnovers," rather then to his own individual efforts.

Herzliya coach, Israel Lev, added: "We had a real point guard problem at the start of the season, but things have definitely improved since Tyson came, six games into the season. He has a good attitude, is very coachable and is one of the keys to the team's recovery."

Lev himself is a mid-season replacement, taking over for Eli Kaneti in the midst of Herzliya's disastrous losing streak. Lev, who began the season as the team's assistant coach, was quick to point out Bracey's and Kennedy's contributions as well as Wheeler's. "Bracey is a tremendous shooter and gives us a big-time scorer," said Lev.

The two-meter-tall, Bracy, a sharpshooter from the University of Oregon, was the final player selected in this year's draft. He made an immediate impact at Herzliya scoring 35 points in his first game here.

The recent arrival of Kennedy was the final piece needed to change Herzliya's fortunes. The long-time veteran of the league provides experience and savvy in pressure situations. "He is truly our leader," claims Lev.

After being given up for dead, Bnei Herzliya is suddenly alive and kicking again, due in no small part to their three acquisitions.