Tom Maayan controls the tempo early in Seton Hall's rout over UMKC - Anjelica Martino
“The guys love playing with him, he’ll go the whole practice and never shoot the basketball” - Kevin Willard on Tom Maayan
With Aaron Cosby sidelined due to a sprained PCL and Freddie Wilson suspended for two games after violating team rules, the starting point guard position fell into the lap of Tom Maayan. With all eyes on him, the 6-foot-1 freshman from Israel did not disappoint in Seton Hall’s 75-36 drubbing of Missouri-Kansas City at Walsh Gym in South Orange, N.J. last night.
"At first, I was a little bit nervous because it was my first game," Maayan admitted. "But right from the beginning, it felt good. After the tip-off, it felt good."
After failing to score in the first half (3 assists, 3 steals), Maayan amped up his productivity in the second half, led off by 5 points within the first 2:30 of the second stanza. "It took him [Maayan] a little time to get his confidence, he’s going to be a really good player, he’s just got to look to score a little more," said Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard. Maayan’s performance was encapsulated in a second half sequence beginning with a pick-pocket steal that lead to a court-long fast break which was topped off by an impressive 180-pass to the trailing Eugene Teague who slammed the ball home, inciting the Pirate faithful to their feet.
Coming into the 2012-13 season, not much was known about Tom Maayan. Just about everyone outside of the coaching staff would have pegged Aaron Cosby and Freddie Wilson above Maayan on the depth chart. Now, the future at the floor general position has become a bit cloudier as Maayan has shown he’s not to be looked past. Kevin Willard agrees, "He’s like a sponge, he wants to be a great player, he has a very bright future," predicted the Pirates’ skipper. "He’s going to have games where he sucks, but he’s going to have more good games than he does bad."
Going into tonight’s game, Willard was unsure of who would even back up Maayan, as Freddie Wilson was suspended for two games right before today’s walk-through. Searching for answers, Kevin Willard turned to Iona post-grad transfer Kyle Smyth. "This is why we went after him: I said, how many plays do you know from the point guard situation and he said ‘every one of them’. I said ‘great you’re the backup point guard’ and he said ‘great’." Smyth contributed a modest 3 points, 2 assists and 5 boards off the bench but more importantly, he failed to turn the ball over, competently handling the ball while spelling for Maayan.
Despite Maayan’s pleasant performance tonight, sophomore Aaron Cosby may be the go-to-guy when he feels up to taking the reins. Cosby sat on the end of the bench in street clothes despite being cleared to play. "He’s cleared, right now he’s all mental. This was more on him than anything else," explained Kevin Willard, "He practiced all week, he practiced good. I was a little surprised we didn't have him." When Cosby, Wilson and Maayan are all active, player management may become an issue, but for now, Coach Willard is taking it in stride. "My second five is probably a better scoring five than my first five. That’s what I like, I can actually sub five guys at a time if I wanted to, and we actually might do that as the year goes along."
Tonight showed that Tom Maayan is a lot better of a player than most people thought, but that’s about it. An injured Aaron Cosby has seen very limited action at point guard against D-I opposition and Freddie Wilson’s improvement from last campaign won’t be put on display until Seton Hall takes on Washington on November 17th, at the earliest.
For the time being, Seton Hall’s show is being run by Tom Maayan, a kid from Israel by way of the Canarias Basketball Academy that most people have never heard of.