What an honour for the American point guard. At 29 years old, Arriel McDonald, who came to Europe as an unknown college player, makes it to the top.
His great first half (15 points with 3/3 from behind the arc plus five assists) put Maccabi on track to bring back the European trophy to Tel Aviv after a 20 year absence. After a very good second season with Israel's "Eternal Champs" (12.2 ppg shooting 48.1% from the field), McDonald was on fire during the last weeks of the season. In the Play-Offs, Arriel was the top scorer of his team in three of the four games, even pouring in 23 points in Wroclaw to get Maccabi past the Eighth Finals.
The former University of Minnesota graduate (he took his college to the NIT title in 1992-93) spent 3 years in Ljubljana when he first came to Europe. It was just the time for him to win 3 Slovenian Championships in a row before joining Maccabi thanks to a brand new Slovenian passport.
A new "God" to replace Katash
In Tel Aviv, McDonald had a tough challenge to face because he was replacing the latest local "God", Oded Katash, who left for Panathinaikos. Last season, McDonald rose to the challenge initially making doubtful Maccabi fans almost forget everything about Katash... Almost, we said, just because Oded was one of the main reasons Panathinaikos brought the European trophy back to Athens. So this year's Final Four is Arriel's. In the Semi-Finals, McDonald shared the top scoring spot with FIBA SuproLeague Player of the Year Nate Huffman (with 17 points). Against the high-flying CSKA squad, McDonald kept his team on track and showed he had "nerves" (adding 4 assists and 2 steals to go along his 17 points).
21 points and 9 assists in the Final!
But, the higlight of his weekend came in the first half of the Finals agains the Panathinaikos' defence. McDonald had an unbelievable first half in which Maccabi made the reigning European Champs look like a cadet squad (37-23 at the half). Then, when the "Greens" made their furious come back, McDonald kept his team on the right track by launching some nice fastbreaks and servings some "caviars" to Curcic or Parker.
Finishing the game with 21 points (3/5 Three-pointers) and 9 assists while only making one turnover, Arriel McDonald really deserved the Final Four MVP title.