Greece center to play for Maccabi

Greece center Sofoklis Schortsanitis has joined Israeli title-holder and five-time European champion Maccabi Tel Aviv after deciding to leave Olympiakos. The 25-year-old, currently in Cyprus with the national team, signed a two-year deal with Maccabi on Thursday. «As soon as I made the decision not to keep playing in Greece, I started looking for a big club, one that was well run and had a great reputation, where I could make a contribution – I found all that with Maccabi Tel Aviv,» said the 2.06-meter-tall center. Schortsanitis had reached the end of his contract with Olympiakos after five turbulent seasons at the Piraeus club during which the Cameroon-born player did not always live up to his potential. One of the highlights of his career came in 2006 when Greece made it to the final of the World Basketball Championship, beating the USA in a memorable semifinal. In that game, Schortsanitis showed that he was able to compete with the NBA’s best and many experts began tipping him for a move to the USA. However, the center began to have problems keeping his weight down and maintaining the fitness needed to play at a professional level. This led to him being repeatedly fined by Olympiakos and his relationship with the club deteriorating. During the last couple of years, Schortsanitis had begun to recover his form. Last season, he averaged 9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in the Greek league and 7.2 points and 2.5 rebounds in the Euroleague, where Olympiakos made it to the final. Maccabi head coach David Blatt believes the player may finally live up to his potential at the Tel Aviv club. «I’m delighted that we’ve signed Sofo,» he said. «We were patient; we waited a long time and, in the end, we found one of the best centers in all of Europe, someone who is also one of the most special and popular players who can be found today. Our fans have been waiting for a big man, and here he is.»