Shootaround - Gal Mekel

Rookie Gal Mekel talks to the media about getting the start in the Mavs pre-season opener.

Omri Casspi.

That’s it.

You’ve just seen the list of Israeli-born players to actually play in the NBA. Gal Mekel is working hard to become the second and the Dallas Mavericks want to see that happen.

The Mavs signed the 6-foot-3 guard in the offseason, nabbing arguably the best player in the Israeli professional leagues. Despite a staunch guard corps that includes new additions Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, returning Maverick Devin Harris and rookie Shane Larkin, coach Rick Carlisle and his staff hope to invest time and attention to Mekel on the front end with hopes of major returns on the back end.

Mekel’s first taste of the American game actually came in 2006 when he enrolled at Wichita State University. He played with the Shockers for two seasons, averaging 4.0 points per game as a freshman and more than doubled that number (9.3 per game) as a sophomore. After that season he had the opportunity to return to Israel and turn pro hoping the opportunity would be there to return to the States, and specifically the NBA, another day.

“Looking back at it, I wasn’t ready for the NBA. After my sophomore year in college Maccabi Tel Aviv offered me a three-year deal and it was very tempting,” Mekel told USA Today. “It was the right time for me to go.”

Signing with the Israeli League’s Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2008, Mekel was loaned out to Galil Gilboa where he began his professional career. The next season, despite sticking with Maccabi, he asked to be loaned out again and returned to Galil Gilboa after seeing he wouldn’t receive much playing time.

It was 2010, however, when everything began to fall into place. He again returned to Galil Gilboa and won his first Israeli League Most Valuable Player Award and led his team to the league finals.

2011-2012 saw Mekel take his game to Italy where, despite signing a two-year deal, he only stayed one season as his club dissolved at the end of the year due to financial debt. As the next season began, he drew interest from the Utah Jazz before deciding to return to Israel where he, again, won the league’s Most Valuable Player award for the second time in three seasons.

With the immense success he enjoyed in Israel, Mekel decided it was time to give the NBA a real shot. During the summer of 2013, he signed with the Mavericks. But why Dallas?

“They gave me a feeling they really believed in me and saw me as a part of the team for a very long time,” he said in that same USA Today interview.

He also told the Jerusalem Post that he was skipping the Euroleague Championships, despite many of his countrymen wishing he would play for Israel, because he wanted to get to Dallas and take part in the team’s offseason program.

“I understand that in order to have a good rookie season, I need to get to Dallas early and work according to the team’s agenda,” he said.

Mekel began his tenure with the Mavericks in the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League. In six games he averaged 9.7 points and 5.0 assists.

So the journey has begun to fulfill a dream for the young point guard. Yes, the Houston Rockets’ Omri Casspi may the be the only Israeli player in the NBA but Gal Mekel is looking to bring his success in Israel to this side of the Atlantic Ocean in 2013.

Mazel tov Gal!

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