UR basketball graduate John DiBartolomeo played against the Sacramento Kings on Monday, Oct. 10 for Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli Premier League. He scored 10 points while grabbing five boards, dishing out three assists in an ultimate Haifa loss to the Kings.
The game truly manifested the disparity in talent among leagues around the world. Haifa, a decent team in its league, lost 135-96 to a sub-par Sacramento Kings team that has not made the playoffs in a decade. It was an impressive performance against an NBA team with a strong inside presence in Demarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein. DiBartolomeo matched up with point guard Ty Lawson, who played for the University of North Carolina.
Lawson had an efficient game and DiBartolomeo rose to the challenge. Lawson outweighs DiBartolomeo by 20 pounds, allowing Lawson to get inside and defend more easily, but the UR graduate stood his ground against the former UNC point guard.
At UR, DiBartolomeo averaged 17.8–4.6–5.3–2 while earning First Team All-UAA three times and National Player of the Year his senior year.
DiBartolomeo has made a name for himself playing basketball overseas following his tremendously successful college career. In the August following his senior year, DiBartolomeo signed with CAI Zaragoza, a team in the Liga ACB. The Liga ACB is the premier basketball league in Spain which has produced NBA talent such as Nikola Mirotic of the Chicago Bulls, Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies, Luis Scola of the Brooklyn Nets, and Tiago Splitter of the Atlanta Hawks—all of whom won ACB MVP Awards.
From CAI Zaragoza, DiBartolomeo was loaned to Palma Air Europa, a team in the LEB Plata league. The LEB Plata is the third-best league in Spain. While playing for Palma in 2013-14, DiBartolomeo averaged 15.1–3.6–2.3–1.6, helping the team earn a promotion to the second-best league in the country, the LEB Oro. In July 2015, he signed a three-year deal with Maccabi Haifa, switching to the Israeli Premier League, after Maccabi Haifa bought out his contract from Zaragoza.
The Israeli Premier League has some decent competition, but is less prominent than the Liga ACB in Spain, which has pumped out more NBA players in the past. The Premier League, however, is on the rise.
In 2009, Omri Casspi, former Israeli Premier League player, became the first Israel-born NBA player. Ironically, he currently plays for the Sacramento Kings. In the NBA, Casspi has averaged 9.5 points per game while shooting 37 percent from deep. In addition, Dragan Bender became the highest-drafted player to come out of the Israeli Premier League after being selected by the Phoenix Suns, fourth overall. Bender scored 11 points and grabbed seven boards in his first preseason game with significant minutes against the Dallas Mavericks.
On Feb. 6, DiBartolomeo led Maccabi Haifa to a win over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Maccabi Tel Aviv is a dominant force in Israel, winning a total of 50 championships and six Euro Cups. The League only came into existence in 1954, so there have only been 12 years where they haven’t won the championship. This marked dominance includes a title-winning streak of 23 consecutive years from 1970-1992. Haifa beat Tel-Aviv 91-56, handing Tel-Aviv its biggest loss in franchise while limiting the team to its fewest scored points in a game since the introduction of the 24-second shot clock.
DiBartolomeo earned Co-MVP honors in the game. He scored 22 points, shooting lights out (5/7 from deep) while grabbing five rebounds and dishing two assists.