When No. 15 Lehigh pulled off the shocking win over No.2 Duke at the NCAA tournament on Thursday, the Blue Devils' loss was felt all the way in Tel Aviv, Israel where former Duke guard Jon Scheyer plays for Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv.
Or should we say, "played".
This morning team representatives for Maccabi announced that Scheyer would not make a team trip to Athens, Greece and has left the team to return home for "personal reasons".
It was that kind of first season overseas for Scheyer.
While Duke was in the game all the way to the end against Lehigh, Scheyer was really never in the game for Maccabi. An American-Israeli, Scheyer's stats this season showed he appeared in 23 games for Maccabi -- who competes in the Israeli Super League, Adriatic League and Turkish Airlines Euroleague -- but his 3 points and 1 rebound per game in roughly 12 minutes per game are tantamount to an emotional upset during March Madness.
If Scheyer helping Duke defeat Butler to capture the 2010 NCAA National Championship during his last year in college was the highest of highs, riding the pine in Tel Aviv this season was the lowest of lows.
Undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft, Scheyer spent summer league with the Miami Heat (where he sustained a severe eye-injury) and training camp with the Los Angeles Clippers, before joining and appearing briefly for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. After averaging 13. 8 points, 3.9, rebounds and 4.1 assist in 33 minutes per game in 16 D-League games, he signed a two-year contact with Maccabi last June and really had no idea what would transpire.
Upon his arrival in Israel, one Israeli website declared the 24-year-old guard the "Jewish Jordan".
No pressure. Instead, there was a lot of watching, learning and hoops heartache in the Holy Land.
"I am really excited to take the next step in my basketball career and go play for Maccabi Tel Aviv," Scheyer said in a statement last summer. "I am looking forward to the opportunity to play for a team with such great tradition."
Notice he didn't say anything back then about the playing time?
Because of his eligibility for Israeli citizenship, there were a number of games early in the season where Scheyer didn't even dress for the game (Israel's rule that teams can play no more than four foreign players on the court at the same time) and after the first 10 games, he only averaged 9.6 minutes per game (1.3 points per game).
It was an unfortunate re-occurring theme throughout the season for Scheyer.
When you talk to pundits familiar with Maccabi's hoop history, they'll profess how the pedigree of play is the highest level outside of the NBA and in many cases that is true. There is also a certain championship aura that surrounds the franchise lead by head coach David Blatt (Blatt also serves as the head coach of Russia's National Team). Last season, Maccabi won the Israeli League, the Israeli Cup and remains a mainstay powerhouse in the Euroleague. Think New York Yankees type swagger: they've won 40 Israeli League titles in 43 years. So although Duke holds a prestigious honor in the States when it comes to college basketball programs, Maccabi is on a whole different level -- a level where Scheyer was a rookie and had to earn his keep behind a proven veteran backcourt.
Both Theo Papaloukas (a two-time Euroleague MVP) and Tal Burstein (has won three Euroleague titles) played in front of him, along with Yogev Ohayon who at 24-years old is one of the young up and coming players in Israel.
Factor in that during the NBA lockout, Jordan Farmar also appeared in 6 games for Maccabi.
And that is part of the problem.
Maccabi was never the ideal overseas situation for Scheyer.
It's not a system where rookies get run and a chance develop and in these early stages of Scheyer's pro career, that's exactly what he needs. After Scheyer decided to play for Maccabi, Blatt stressed how he wished Scheyer would stay in Tel Aviv for many years, but that is some serious wishful thinking right now. Signing with a smaller market team in Israel would have been more ideal, but at this point it's too little too late. Even his second season in Tel Aviv is up in the air.
On Tuesday, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv tips-off their Euroleague postseason without Scheyer against Panathinaikos in a best-of-five series.
This chapter is now closed on what was an upsetting first season in Israel.