Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Memorable season for former Eph
WILLIAMSTOWN >> In four years at Williams College, Daniel Wohl got close to winning a national championship, but never won one.
Maybe it seems fitting that in his first year as a professional basketball player, Wohl earned the first championship of his basketball life. He came off the bench for Galil Gilboa in Israel's second league. Gilboa beat Ironi Kiryat Ata three games to two in the National League championship series.
"This championship means a lot," Wohl told me when he was in town recently. "It was a really special season throughout the year. In the end we were rewarded with a championship.
"You try not to focus on the end. I wasn't taught to think about the result, I was process-driven. If you do that, the results will take care of themselves."
Wohl had never won a championship at any level. In four years at Williams, Wohl reached the NCAA Division III National quarterfinals once, and was on an Eph team that was seconds away from claiming a national title but Wisconsin-Whitewater wrested that crown away from him and his teammates.
"We talked about it all year," he said. "Everyone's here for one purpose, and that's to win a championship."
Wohl's team beat Ironi Kiryat Ata 68-52 in the final, behind 22 points from UAlbany graduate Jason Siggers. Siggers was an All-America East first teamer in 2007 and holds the school record for most points by a senior (34) in a game.
"We blew them out in the last game. It was at home, in front of our fans," said Wohl. "The gym was packed. It was so loud.
"In the fourth quarter, the game was already over, and it was like a party for the last 10 minutes."
During the year, Wohl averaged 13.7 minutes per game, 4.9 points and 2.5 rebounds. Four times, he had to play his former Williams teammate Hayden Rooke-Ley. They split regular-season games and Wohl's team won a first-round playoff series 2-0 over Ramat Hasharon.
"We competed against each other a lot in four years. Seeing him in another jersey on the other side of the world was a little strange at first," Wohl said. "I found myself at first, like sometimes I was hoping he would do well and make shots — especially when I wasn't on the court.
"Once you get on the court together and you're between the lines, your competitive juices take over. I tried to see him as another player"
By the way, Rooke-Ley appeared in 23 games for Ramat Hasharon, averaging 4 points per game.
In the four games they played against each other, Wohl won the minutes battle by playing 30 in a 98-85 win by Ramat on March 6. Rooke-Ley won the scoring battle on Dec. 1, 2015, getting 8 points in 19 minutes of a Galil Gilboa 88-62 win.
"I never forgot it," Wohl said, when I asked him if he could put aside the fact that he and Rooke-Ley went through an awful lot at Williams together. "Every time he had the ball or took a shot, it was a little more meaningful. It's a feeling you don't have when a regular player took a shot."
When you go to Williams, professional sports is not usually on the radar screen. Three players off of former coach Mike Maker's final Williams team spent time overseas. According to Eurobasket.com, Mike Mayer played for Augsberg in Germany last year, along with what Wohl and Rooke-Ley did. James Wang, who played with the other three before that championship game, continues to ply his trade in China.
"It was a great experience," said Wohl of his year overseas. "The first thing I'll say is our team was really fortunate to have really good chemistry. It's something you don't see in pro basketball a lot and something I was really prepared for.
"The level of play, for me, was like a big step up in terms of speed, pace and the mental side of the game."
But by any standard, Wohl's first year overseas was a success. Will there be a second? The former Eph, when we met, wasn't quite ready to commit to a second season in Israel or elsewhere.
One thing is certain, it was an unforgettable basketball season for him.
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.
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