Yovel Zoosman (198-SF-1998) is a 23 year old 198cm forward playing his first season in Germany with Alba Berlin. He began his career with Maccabi Playtika Tel-Aviv (Israel-Winner League) and played a total of 97 Winner League games and 78 Euroleague games before coming going To Alba Berlin. He also won 6 titles with the Israeli Euroleague team. He also has played for the Israeli senior national team and won a Gold and three Silver’s at the youth sector. He spoke to germanhoops.com after the 89-57 win against Brose Bamberg.
Congrats on the 89-57 win over Brose Bamberg. Did the first quarter lay the foundation for the win?
I think that we played pretty tough in the first quarter and maintained a 13-17 point lead until the fourth quarter. We never let go of the momentum and pushed until the end. We are close to the finish line now in the season and want only positive results.
After playing almost your whole career with Maccabi Playtika Tel-Aviv (Israel-Winner League), your playing your first season in Germany with Alba Berlin. How tough was it leaving the club?
It is never easy to leave home, family, friends and your comfort zone. I knew that it would be a refreshing change by going to Alba Berlin. I knew it was hard to leave that behind me, but at the end of the day it is my career. I believe that I made the best decision and have no regrets. I’m 100% sure that I made the right decision.
Your playing your first season with Alba Berlin. What kind of an experience has it been playing for Alba Berlin? How have you experienced the culture of the organization?
It has been a very good season for Alba Berlin. But our job isn’t done yet. We still have the last sprint of the marathon. We enjoy playing with each other and the players are humble. I’m always smiling on and off the court.
Alba Berlin plays the prettiest basketball in the easyCredit BBL. How is the game different than what you played with at Maccabi Playtika Tel-Aviv (Israel-Winner League)?
That is good to hear. For us basketball means to share the ball. That is the right way to play for us. But if you have some kind of an advantage like an open look, we take it. We believe our task is to play together which is key to play well. The biggest difference to Maccabi was that they have pure talent. They have unbelievable players. It was difficult to showcase my skills there. This season I’m able to play more freely and get more plays. I do whatever the team needs and feel like I’m improving. We as a team don’t care about assists because that is our nature. It isn’t special, because we are pass first.
Alba Berlin has had a strong season. Is your self-confidence at a different level than for say a Jaleen Smith who has won only 1 title while you have won 7. How confident are you that Alba Berlin will win the German double?
We don’t talk too much about it, because we know that we need to prove it. I believe that at the end of the day the best team always wins. It is a best of five series and it won’t be a surprise who wins the title. Of course I hope that we do. When your on the court, it doesn’t matter what you have won before, but who wants it more at the end. The team that has the most spirit and will will do it. We are on a good path. We all have a common goal and need to show it each day.
Has the whole transition been easier for you having a fellow country person there with Tamir Blatt? What do you appreciate most about his game and character?
Yes it has helped him being here and I hope the same for him with me. This is the first time that we are in a new culture. We have been together a lot before coming to Berlin where we were roommates during youth national team times and now are also roommates with Alba Berlin. We spend a lot of time together and it makes it easier for us to enjoy the team and be who we are for the team. When you feel down or weird about something then you feel happy that you can talk to someone from another perspective.
How has your game profited from the easyCredit BBL? What kind of a player were you in the Winner League and what kind of player have you become in the BBL?
I haven’t shown so much on the stat sheet in the last games. When I played in the Winners league, I was more of a defender. Two years ago I won best defender. I still try to do my best as a defender with Alba Berlin. There is more motion here and I have more freedom to showcase my skills and opportunity to change the game. I try to be more versatile be it penetrating or getting offensive rebounds. It has been a good experience being able to show my skills and do what coach needs from me. I have more responsibilities to help the team.
Every guy I have ever spoken to that has been teammates with Luke Sikma has raved about him. Has his IQ rubbed off on you?
Yes of course. Luke is a great guy. He has a different kind of mind set and is such a smart guy on and off the court. He is a pass first guy and great role model for the young players. His play makes it a lot easier for the team. He has this routine before a game where he shouts and gets everybody ready. It makes us more free and we just go on the court happy and play hard.
You have never averaged in double figures since you played for Maccabi Raanana (National League) in 2016-2017. What kind of a scorer would you be if you played for a team that gave you 32 minutes per game?
I honestly don’t know. I never averaged so many minutes. With more competitions in a season. I think my body would give up playing so many minutes. I always give my best no matter if I play five seconds, five minutes or 32 minutes. Scoring has never been important for me. It is more about the spirit of winning. Being able to impact the team and help it win is most important for me.
You played most of your career with Maccabi Tel Aviv. How important were these years for you where you played many Euroleague games at a young age? What kind of player did you become there?
I owe a lot to Maccabi Tel Aviv. They made me the player that I am today.They put me a good position to let me go to Alba Berlin. It was great that I could play as a 17-18 year old kid. I took nothing for granted. There aren’t many Israeli players that are put into a position there like I was. I played many games there and that gave me a lot of experience. I trusted the process there. Basketball is a marathon and I’m only at the beginning. I hope that it will last a long time.
Is it hard to believe that a guy like Guy Pnini is 15 years older than you? Was he like a mentor for you early in your career?
It is hard to say since I only played one season with him. But for every player in Israel, he is a huge legend. He is unbelievable. He has seen so much and accomplished everything that he wanted to. He had so many disadvantages with his athleticism in the Euroleague, but he was so successful with his intelligence. He is a real role model. I always hug him and show love to him when I see him. It is always so good to be around him. I know that he will be a coach soon. He is a great guy that has achieved everything.
You saw the athleticism of Sylven Landesberg at a young age. Why didn’t a guy like that reach the NBA?
I don’t know. I never played in the NBA. He is a great scorer. I haven’t followed him lately, but know he scored 50 points in China. I never thought that he was that athletic. Other guys like Sonny Weems and Joe Alexander were crazy athletic. Sylven’s athleticism was solid but the others were at another level.
You were teammates with another veteran Michael Roll. How did a guy like that make your game better day in and day out in practice?
I learned a lot from him and Deandre Kane. I was just starting to play more and they were really tough on me in practices. They played mental games with me and really helped me to improve. I think that basketball is more mental than talent. Both guys always played at a high level and were tough on the court. They taught me to be mentally tough and not be afraid of the moment, but to hit back.
You had the privilege to play together with Amare Stoudimire. He is supposed to be a very nice guy. Did you ever have a special personal encounter with him during a road trip that you will never forget?
He was a great guy. He came in mid season to the team. It is really hard to explain what it was like being teammates with him. The guy will be a hall of famer. Here was this guy that had an incredible NBA career. It is just unimaginable to explain what it felt like sharing the court with him.
You played three seasons with Scottie Wilbekin. I feel he gets lost a bit with guys like Mike James and Shane Larkin as the best guards in Europe. How did you experience Scottie and why was he another guy that didn’t get a chance in the NBA?
I think that the NBA was never for Scottie. He found his place in Europe and stayed. He is a very humble guy. He is no doubt a top 10 Euroleague player. Maybe even top 5 or top 3 talentwise. He isn’t flashy or talking much or showing emotion. It is a good question why he isn’t more in the discussion with James and Larkin, but for me he is in that discussion.
In the 2017-2018 season you played against Real Madrid and Luka Doncic losing where he had a solid 11/4/ 3 game. Did you ever think after that last season in Europe that he would explode so much in the NBA?
Honestly I was pretty surprised that he was doing incredible things in the NBA. He was cooking at a young age in Europe. I always felt like he got way too much respect from the referees in Europe. I thought like that might not happen anymore in the NBA. I was really shocked how well he made the transition to the NBA. He is the best pick and roll player in the world now. He treats each situation perfectly. He is getting better each day. He is in the conversation with the best European player at age 23. In a few years he could be the best.
Every one has that has been with Maccabi Tel Aviv has a Pini Gershon story. What dealings have you had with the eccentric man?
To be honest, I really like the guy. When I was young, he tried to help me with my career. Now he is a type of special advisor for the youth teams in Israel. He has crazy knowledge. He has seen a lot in his life and won a lot. To get a compliment form him is great. When he gives you advice, you want to do it better the next time. He sees the game so well. You know when he tells you a just one sentence, that it is probably correct. I just try to do it a little bit better the next time.
Who was the toughest player that you ever faced on the court?
The hardest match up was Mike James. His first step is crazy. In like 0,2 seconds he is gone. Sergio Rodriguez is also tough as is Nando de Colo who is always floating on the court.
Please name your five best teammates of all-time?
I have played with so many great players. I can’t pick just 5. Some guys that come to mind are Tarik Black, Othello Hunter, Jeremy Pargo, Jake Cohen, Scottie Wilbekin, Angelo Caloiaro. I still talk to these guys on a weekly basis.
Please name your NBA Mount Rushmore
Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Tim Duncan, Shaq. On the bench I have Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. He is the best offensive player of all-time.
What s your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
People fell in love with Jordan and he was the reason people began to play in 90’s and 2000’s. Both guys accomplished crazy things. We need to accept their greatness as it is.
What was the last movie that you saw?
V for Vendetta. My favorite movie of all-time is the Shawshank Redemption.
Thanks Yovel for the chat.