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August 08, 2005 - Image 10

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2005-08-08

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August , 2005


Former cager Baston
thrives while overseas

By Ian Robinson
Daily Sports Writer
The NBA must wait.
That's what former Michigan basketball
player Maceo Baston said when he signed a
two-year contract extension with two-time
defending Euroleague champion, Maccabi
Elite Tel Aviv Basketball Club.
The Corsicana, Texas native decided to
stay the with yellow and blue of Maccabi
and attempt to help make team history as
only the third European club to earn a
Euroleague three-peat, despite the possibil-
ity of making more money by signing with
a different club.
Although Baston has finally established
himself as one of the top players in Europe
and found a comfort level with Tel Aviv, it
was a long road to reach this point.
During his years at Michigan from 1995-
98, Baston established himself as a force on
the defensive end with 130 blocks and 830
rebounds, just 23 minutes per game.
Former Michigan Daily basketball beat
writer and current Detroit Free Press sports-
writer Mark Snyder recalls that although
Baston was less physically imposing than
his Michigan teammates Robert Traylor
and Maurice Taylor, he always found a way
to make an impact.
"He had an ability to use his long arms
as a threatening shot-blocker and could
rebound in a crowd," Snyder said.
During his senior season, the 6-foot-9
power forward helped lead the team to the
Big Ten Tournament Championship and to

the second round of the NCAA tournament
where the Wolverines lost to UCLA.
Upon completing his career at Michi-
gan, Baston was selected 58th by the Chi-
cago Bulls in the 1998 NBA Draft. But he
never played a game for Chicago.
After failing to make an NBA roster,
Baston spent two years with the Quad
City Thunders of the CBA, where he
won the 1999-2000 Defensive Player of
the Year award. Baston maintained his
dream of reaching the NBA.
"I had a great CBA career and felt like I
would get called up (to the NBA) from that
moment but it didn't happen," Baston said.
Baston spent the next two seasons in
European leagues before he fulfilled his
NBA dream - bittersweetly.
His father was dying from cancer and
Baston left his team in Spain to be with his
father. While attendingto his father, Baston
accepted a contract to play the remainder of
the season with the Toronto Raptors.
"My father got a chance to see me
play some quality minutes in the NBA,"
Baston said. "My NBA dream is really
fulfilled in that sense - anything else is
like the cherry on top."
He appeared in 16 games for the Rap-
tors during the 2002-03 season, and
despite limited playing time and produc-
tion, he proved to himself that he could.
compete at the highest level.
After playing for Toronto's summer
league team in 2003, Baston signed a two-
year contract with Maccabi. During that
time, Maccabi fielded one of the greatest

teams in European history and dominated
both domestic and international competi-
tion. After spending two years around the
Maccabi, it is not surprising that Baston
decided to re-sign for two years.
When people talk aboutbeing around a
culture of winning, nowhere is that phrase
more fitting than in Tel Aviv. Maccabi
has won every Israeli championship since
1970, except for the 1993 title, as well
as five Euroleague championships. As a
result, Maccabi has earned the nickname
of "team of the country."
Although soccer is the most popular
sport in the hearts of Israelis, Maccabi
basketball is the exception, said Yarone
Arbel, a writer from the Israeli basketball
news-site salnews.com.
Maccabi Tel Aviv fans are considered
some of the best fans in the world. When
ESPN's Chad Ford watched the 2004 Euro-
league championship game in Tel Aviv he
wrote, "I never have seen a people more
crazy about basketball, even the NBA."
Baston agrees with Ford's description.
"When teams come to our gym, it's not
fair," Baston said. "Once we get on a run,
team's lose their manhood and their pride.
It's so much fun that it's surreal."
On the floor, Maccabi's uptempo style
makes it one of the most electrifying teams
to watch in Europe, and Baston contrib-
utes to that excitement on both ends of the
floor, Arbel said. In the 2004-05 season,
Baston averaged 14.9 points, 5.4 rebounds
and 1.3 blocks per game.
"(Baston) brings to Maccabi another

Former Michigan forward Maceo Baston has helped his pro team to tw

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