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Living in America: Carmel Bouchman (Temple)

October 18th, 2009 · No Comments

(Yarone Arbel) Israeli players don’t go often to college. In the holy-land after graduating from high-school it’s compulsory to join the army for three years. Since the option to stay amateur until the age of 21 isn’t practical for those who wish to make a living from pro basketball, and with the new rules by the NCAA in the last years making a sandwich on a road game trip a reason to doubt your eligibility, there aren’t many options for the Israeli kids.

The only option that does exist, other than moving out of the country before the age of 15, is to postpone the army service, and start the process right after they return from college. Very few athletes of all sports get this clearance every year, mostly the very top notch of them. In the case of Carmel Bouchman it was clear that clearance will be granted, as he was projected as the “next big thing” in Israeli basketball from a young age.

The 205cm forward from Tel Aviv won titles throughout his entire junior career both with his high school and the Maccabi Tel Aviv team. In the last two years he missed just one title among high school league, national league and national cup. It was a loss in the finals of the high school league, in which the team’s co-star, Nimrod Tishman, got injured in the second quarter and Bouchman had to play by himself. That game exampled his great talent, when he had to play five positions, but it wasn’t enough to win. Nevertheless, his junior career was more productive and glorious than probably any other player of Israeli basketball in the last decade, even Omri Casspi and Yotam Halperin.

Yet the level of junior games in Israel isn’t much of a story to tell. The number of players with the size of Bouchman can be count on a hand of someone who likes to deal with explosives. As a Junior in high school he led his team to win the title when he wrote 18 points, nine assists, six blocks and no less than an all-time record of 30 rebounds, but he’s far from being monster rebounder. Playing with people much smaller than you usually helps.

Don’t take this the wrong way. Bouchman is a very skilled and promising player, yet college is the first where he’ll have his first real test.

We’re talking about a 205cm decently athletic player with long quick arms and a true winning spirit. His a very smart player with great understanding of the game, and has one of the best passing skills for a player in his size, and can really come out with some great passes some that would make some point guards turn green. It made people in Israel to compare him with Nikola Vujcic, only the Croat is a legit 212cm center while Bouchman is still looking for his position.

That hunt might take a while, and will be shaped in Temple, as Bouchman is the player with the least position you may have ever seen. He played the center and power forward positions in Israel, but that was a big sin for his future as he’s not the physical or aggressive type of player. He got the length for a PF, but his width is edgy and his lack of toughness won’t hold in the highest levels for that position.

He is quick and athletic but not in an extent to be a clear-cut small forward. Has no real post up moves, and not a clear jump shot, although he can surely score facing the basket even from the arc. He can put the ball on the floor, but still need to pick up how to finish it, as he hardly played that role in the Israeli Junior league. His passing skills can make him more unique at the four obviously, and are good enough to play as a guard, but his rebounding might be only solid for a four and great for a three. His ball handling is also better than the average power forward, but not good enough yet to be a real threat from the back court.

The debate over what is the real position of Carmel, either the small or the power forward or maybe even something else can go forever. He’s a probably a combo forward without any real spot on the floor, which made one college coach who tried to recruit him during the summer say: “I don’t know what position this kid is playing, for me he’s every position and no position, but he’s one hell of a player.”

What makes him such a great player? The fact he’s so versatile, intelligent and unique makes him that intriguing, but the coaching staff at Temple will have to make a very delicate job with directing his game to the pro career, as one wrong turn can make Bouchman a player with the right skills in the wrong position or vice versa, and that could be problem.

If there’s one role model Bouchman would need to adopt it’s Dejan Bodiroga’s game style at the top of his career. Bodiroga as well didn’t play with a true position. He was everything from the 1 to the 4, but none of the above at the same time. How he got his game going was by working on the mis-matches created according to the opponent’s line-up and his defender. If Bouchman would try to beat his guy with traditional basketball, sooner or later he’ll face problems. His only way to make it big would be to adopt the style of the great Serb.

Don’t expect him to be a 20 point guy or the main offensive player on any team. Carmel’s line in a good game would probably be 12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks, while on a huge night his points might jump to the early 20s but the others will tickle Mr. Triple or even Quadruple-double.

The fact he’s as hard worker as one can be, a magnificent human being with great social skills, who always look for the best interest of his team and gets upset if one team-mate dares to put himself for one second above the team is another positive aspect that will help a great teacher as Coach Dunphy to shape Carmel’s future.

Carmel had looks also from bigger schools with bigger tradition, bigger chances to go big in present but chose Temple as the school with the right staff, conditions and conference to develop his game.

written by Yarone Arbel

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