Just before Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Neptunas 84-64 in the second game of their two game Champions League Round of 16 series and advanced to the quarterfinals of the competition, NBA All-Star and Reds center Amare Stoudemire received Israeli citizenship at the Minister of Interior, Aryeh Deri’s office in the capital city.
Press Conference https://t.co/hsOFTWcNXd
— Israel Sports Rabbi (@thesportsrabbi) March 13, 2019
Surrounded by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, Hapoel Jerusalem owner Eyal Homsky, CEO and General Manager Guy Harel, Deri stated that, “Amare is an international player who will be a worldwide ambassador for the State.”
At the festive gathering Stoudemire was presented with his Teudat Zehut ID Card and citizenship papers. “This has been a pretty exciting moment for myself,” he began. “My body is filled with so many different emotions. My love for Israel is something that has been growing for a long time. For me to be at a moment where I can truly be a part of Israel is special.”
STAT also spoke about playing for Israel going forward, “Representing Israel on a sporting point of view is very important to me. Hopefully in the near future I will be able to represent Israel on a national level and world level in the realm of sports.”
Meanwhile on the hardwood at the PAIS Arena, Jerusalem moved on to the next round of the Champions League with an aggregate score of 170-138 over the two game series against Neptunas from Klaipeda, Lithuania. The Reds will now face Tenerife from Spain in another two game series with the winner moving on to the Final Four. Newly minted Israeli citizen Amare Stoudemire led the way for Jerusalem with 15 points, Tashawn Thomas scored 13 points and collected 8 rebounds, while Da’Sean Butler and James Feldeine rounded out the double digit scorers with 11 points each.
Josh Owens and Stoudemire led the way for the Reds in the first quarter which saw the hosts go out to a 20-16 lead as Butler and Thomas continued Jerusalem’s exploits in the second frame sending Oded Katash’s side into halftime ahead 36-29.
Stoudemire, Thomas and J’Covan Brown piled on the offense in the third quarter to give Jerusalem a 63-50 lead after 30 minutes of action while the final frame was garbage time galore as the Reds wrapped up the 20 point home win.
Following the game Stoudemire talked about his emotions after playing for the first time as a fully fledged citizen of the country, “It felt great to play as an Israeli for the first time and I knew how important this game was tonight. Neptunas came out with a great push to try and win the game and while I was trying to soak it all in, I knew how important it was to get the win and I tried to focus on that.”
1) It’s all about Amare I. What can I say. After a whirlwind of a day, Stoudemire went out and scored a team high 15 points as Jerusalem moved on to the next round of Champions League play. After the game, Stoudemire came out of the dressing room wearing a white shirt, tie, large skullcap, tzizit and black pants he spoke about a number of topics including moving on in the competition and of he feels that Jerusalem has a chance to go all the way, “We are persevering through the season so far and we are looking forward to the next round. We still have a ways to go and we are still getting better.” About potentially winning the championship, “You never know. There are some really good teams out there and we are taking it one round at a time to see if we can compete at a high level and try to get the wins.”
2) It’s all about Amare II: When will Amare make his Israeli league debut? Will it be on Saturday night against Hapoel Holon? Oded Katash had this to say, “I hope that he will play in the upcoming game. This is a great addition for us and we can play a bit different due to the Russian rule. It will help James Feldeine and J’Covan Brown. Amare has great quality and he will help us very much going forward.” STAT also talked about going from playing once a week in European action to now being able to also play in the Israeli league as an Israeli, “It’s going to be great as I am used to playing four sometimes five games in a week. To play one game in a week was a challenge for me but now I can play two games in a week and allows me to stay in a good rhythm. It’s perfect for me.”
3) It’s all about Amare III. What did Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and Hapoel Jerusalem owner Eyal Homsky have to say about Israel’s newest citizen? “Every resident of Jerusalem loves Amare. He’s a true ambassador for all of us,” Lion stated. “This is something wonderful for the State of Israel and Jerusalem,” Homsky said, “Amare is a role model for any throughout the world and is a true ambassador on the social networks.” And what were Amare’s final thoughts on becoming part of the Blue & White? “I am very excited. My learning since I was a youth brought me to visit Israel and eventually living and playing for the team here. in Jerusalem just shows that if you stay consistent with your learnings you never know what can happen in the future. Its definitely been a blessing for me.”
And yes there was a game. Oded Katash was very pleased with how his team came into the contest and didn’t focus at all on the 12 point advantage that they had accumulated last game, “I’m very happy about the way we played and approached the game. The right way was to not look back at the 12 point lead. Both teams struggled from 3 and they came out very aggressive. But we did a great job defensively keeping them to just 64 points.”
A) Tashawn Thomas once again put in a tremendous performance for Jerusalem and he spoke about the game that was, “We knew it was going to be a tough game and we began slowly but we played well in the second half.” Thomas also spoke about moving on in the competition, “I am very happy that we advanced because last season I wasn’t able to move on (with Hapoel Holon). We can go all the way but we have to play the way we did against every team.”
B) Da’Sean Butler had a magnificent game for the Reds. He came out with tremendous energy on both sides of the floor and was a force throughout the two games. Katash spoke highly of the forward, “Da’Sean was terrific on both sides of the ball and he perhaps is the main reason why we were successful against Neptunas as our shooting percentage was low. Da’Sean is a player where you can’t always see his contribution on the stat sheet. Someone who really loves and understands basketball can see that he makes plays that are crucial. He’s also a leader who is always thinking intelligently ahead to the next play and how he can get the maximum out of it. It’s great to have a player like this on the team.”
C) Neptunas defeated Euroleague team Zalgiris 3 times this season but somehow that couldn’t translate to their series with Jerusalem. I asked Lorenzo Williams about why that’s the case. “They are two very different teams. Jerusalem is a very athletic team with many players who can run and shoot the ball. You can’t compare the two as they are very different.”