Hapoel Jerusalem fell at home to Ashdod 86-74 for their first league loss of the season as they head to Reggio Emilia for EuroCup Gameday 4 action. With a record of 0-3 thus far in the competition, it’s must win time and don’t kid yourself. If Hapoel lose they will have a very tough hill to climb to get out of their group. Impossible? No. Extremely challenging for a team that is struggling to find its identity under Coach Fotis Katsikaris? Yes. Will the game in Italy be of interest? Most certainly. Let’s take a look at what lies ahead for the Reds.
1) Hapoel Jerusalem is in trouble, deep trouble. After losing at home to Ashdod in league play and still in search of their first EuroCup win, the Reds are a big mess, both on and off of the court. On the hardwood, Jerusalem’s defense leaves something to be desired giving up a whopping 86 points against one of its former coaches Brad Greenberg, while also coming out of the gate flat. Off the court it’s clear that the team chemistry is not what it should be. Lior Eliyahu, a veteran Israeli player is clocking under 10 points a game while Alen Omic is struggling on the offensive and defensive ends of the court.Add to that the fact that a new player has yet to surface for the released Curtis Jerrells, Fotios Katsikaris and his squad are far from being in the ideal situation. With an 0-3 record in EuroCup play, the Reds head to Italy for a do or die matchup against Reggio Emilia who stand at 2-1 in continental play. If Jerusalem lose they will need to win 5 out of 6 games to guarantee a trip to the next round of the competition and can all but kiss goodbye any consideration for the Euroleague. With such a strong showing last year, it’s a pity that Jerusalem are now in the position they are in.
2) While Reggio Emilia are 2-1 in EuroCup they are 0-5 in the Italian domestic league. They feature the competition’s leading scorer Amedeo Della Valle who is averaging a shade over 22 points per game, Julian Wright who plied his trade in both the NBA and the Israeli league at Rishon Le’Zion and Bnei Herzliya plus American center Jalen Reynolds. Add to that Georgian and Euroleague veteran Manuchar Markoishvili who played for his national team in the Eurobasket group held in Israel this summer, they are certainly a squad to be reckoned with and Katsikaris is well aware of their quality, “They are a dangerous team and run the court well. They have the top scorer in the EuroCup in Della Valle and experience in Markoishvili. We will have to play as a team and improve our defense and play harder. We will be ready and we know the importance. It’s time to start to win games.” And win games they must.
The former NBA forward continued, “We have to get out of the first round. At this stage it’s very important and come out with the right mentality. We have to figure things out and do the right things in practice and make sure that we are all focused and locked in on the main things on defense, help defense, blocking shots, taking charges. Things we haven’t done a great job with.”
3) Austin Daye also spoke about the must win situation that the Reds are in and what the keys are going to be for them in Italy while, focusing again on the defense which has been the weak point for Hapoel, “It hurt to have the fans boo us, but I’m taking the loss as a positive and it’s a wake up call to make sure that we are all responsible enough to be professionals and to come out and play with the right intensity and mindset and take care of business on the road.”
Taking about defense, the Minister of D Tarrence Kinsey will be available for this game, but no one should be banking on him to be back at 100% explained Katsikaris, “It will be difficult after five months and we missed him a lot. Nobody knows including himself how ready he is. He will need time but whatever he can give us will be welcome.”