Zach Hankins named MVP of the Month for March: “It’s a reflection of how our team is doing”

Zach Hankins named MVP of the Month for March: “It’s a reflection of how our team is doing”

Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem are unbeaten in over two months, they put together a string of 14 straight wins in all competitions

Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem are unbeaten in over two months, they put together a string of 14 straight wins in all competitions. The man in the middle, Zach Hankins, is the biggest reason why the red-and-black team looks unstoppable and is just four wins away from winning the Basketball Champions League.

During the Round of 16, the 26-year-old center became the first player in BCL history to pick up 10 or more rebounds in five straight games, a streak which ended due to foul trouble during the last Gameday in Strasbourg.

March saw Jerusalem go 3-0, despite having to travel to France twice in a row, to take on JDA Bourgogne Dijon and SIG Strasbourg. Hankins picked up a pair of double-doubles, while also getting 2 blocks per game, which puts him on pace to finish the season second in blocks on the all-time list in the BCL.

While his numbers aren’t exactly TJ Shorts-kind of eye popping, he is the most consistent man for Jerusalem, the anchor on the defensive end and the vertical threat on the offensive end. Being his usual self, Hankins doesn’t feel like he did anything extraordinary to win this award in March.

“It’s a reflection of how our team has been doing. Thriving at my position has everything to do with our team’s flow and coaching. Any individual award belongs to the team as a whole,” Hankins told

His teammates would agree, no doubt about it. Speedy Smith and Brandon Brown control the rhythm, Levi Randolph and Khadeen Carrington get the tough buckets whenever the offense is stalling, while guys like Itay Segev, Mareks Mejeris, Siim-Sander Vene, Oz Blayzer and Or Cornelius don’t mind doing the dirty jobs for the team.

Add Aleksandar Dzikic’s coaching to the mix and no wonder they are having a season to remember, with the Israeli State Cup trophy already added to their silverware collection. Something clicked after the home defeat to JDA Bourgogne Dijon in late January.

“We’ve really bought in to what we’re great at. Our team defense and intensity has become our bread and butter, and we’ve just been playing winning team basketball,” Hankins explained the winning run.

The big man will receive his award in person just before the tip-off in the Quarter-Finals. No better feeling than lifting that trophy and pointing the finger towards the red end of the Pais Arena in Jerusalem.

“Our fans can have a huge impact on our team. We’re very blessed to be able to start this series at home with what I hope will be a great crowd,” he said.

The series sees a historical rivalry renewed. Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem and AEK will be facing each other for the 15th and 16th time, with a possibility of the 17th matchup also looming in the best-of-three Quarter-Finals.

Hankins will have the toughest possible rival in his position as the March MVP will be up against the February MVP, because Akil Mitchell is right there to power the AEK offense.

“I’m always excited to match up with other good players. Mitchell’s game is similar to mine, playing with a ton of energy and drive,” Zach offered.

Although he’s just 26, he’s been through a lot in his career. Back in high school, he broke his foot during a game, then came back from rehab too soon and damaged the foot even more, missing almost his entire senior year.

That saw his chances of getting a Division I scholarship vanish, but he fought his way through NCAA Division II, winning the tournament in 2018, and being selected named the NCAA Division II Tournament MVP. He transferred to Xavier in his final collegiate season, before moving on to Czech Republic.

Hankins battling current Houston Rockets star Alperen Sengun in 2020
He played an amazing season with ERA Nymburk in 2019-20, before it came to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Hankins went on to sign contracts with Maccabi Rishon LeZion, Galatasaray and South East Melbourne Phoenix – without ever appearing in a game for the latter two teams.

Trips to the NBA G League and Puerto Rico followed, before he finally found a home in Jerusalem this season. After everything Hankins has been through over the last three years, seeing Hankins flying high again feels like a win for basketball fans all over the world.

“I’m very thankful to Jerusalem and coach Dzikic for taking a chance on me this season. We’ve been able to put a team together that can do something special this year. I’ve loved playing here and representing this organization.”

During this campaign, Hankins is averaging 15.5 points on 72.3 percent shooting, with 8.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. His efficiency rating of 21.4 is the best among all remaining players, and the second best of the season, trailing Bahcesehir College’s Jerry Boutsiele by just 0.2 points.

That’s just a fancy way of phrasing this sentence: Zach Hankins is not only the MVP of the month for March, but also a rock solid candidate for the Season MVP award.

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