The Lead Point
There’s no question that James Feldeine is the vocal on court leader of Hapoel Jerusalem. The guard has been critical to the club’s success since the first day he arrived on the scene before the start of the 2018/19 season. The New York, NY native fell in love with the city, the team and surroundings almost immediately, while the fans have showered him with that same adoration from the get go.
That led to Feldeine signing a long term extension with the club very early on in his first year with the Reds, a move that is almost unprecedented, but he had found a home and a home that he wanted to build upon. Sure, he may have left money on the table, but Feldeine went with his heart and there is nothing wrong with that. We don’t see that too often which makes the Quinnipiac product even more special.
Feldeine had featured in the Euroleague with Panathinaikos and Red Star and also played ball in Puerto Rico, Italy and Spain, but he caught the famous “Jerusalem Syndrome” and it has been a terrific “Shidduch” (match) ever since. He will always speak to the media and never shy away from a question. He is the team’s leader on the hardwood and he’s also the unofficial General Manager, Ambassador and chief cook and bottle washer. But more than anything else, he’s a winner.
“It wasn’t another game,” began Feldeine about Jerusalem’s dominant win over Maccabi Tel Aviv. “But we came ready to play and I liked how we started the game. We ended the half with a big run. We have a bigger game on Wednesday but this was important for the fans and for our confidence. Last time they ran us out of the gym at their place and me personally I kind of wanted to pay back as I hate losing like that. So it was a good win for us overall.”
With the victory, Jerusalem has now beaten Maccabi three out of four times this season including two games that were winner take all in the League Cup Final preseason tourney and the Israel State Cup quarterfinals. As the season continues on, it’s clear that the two squads will be favorites to meet in the one game final in June, “We will see them again in the third round but we have another competition to worry about right now. It’s good as they are a Euroleague team and it shows that we are good and can beat them. It’s good for our confidence heading into Wednesday.”
With the addition of Shelvin Mack a couple of months ago, Jerusalem has certainly gotten stronger in the back court and Feldeine is very happy that his new teammate came to the club with plenty of solid experience while alluding to the fact that he also has leadership capabilities, “He’s a veteran. We all knew TB (Tamir Blatt) was out after the Peristeri game and he stepped up. He’s older like me and he knows what he needs to do. He stepped up big time for us. When he plays well we always win. He’s out there with me trying to lead the team and doing certain things that doesn’t come up on the scoresheet that helps us win games. He helps me out as a leader on the court.”
By defeating Peristeri in game one of their Champions League Round of 16 playoff matchup plus knocking off the Yellow & Blue, one can say that Jerusalem had a pretty good week, but Feldeine wanted to keep the wins low key as there are bigger goals ahead, “It’s just another week and a good week, one of the best, but the week with the Cup was more important. If we pass on Wednesday (Peristeri game 2 in the best of 3 series) we will face a tougher team in Burgos (San Pablo defeated Sassari 84-81 in game 1 of their series and Sassari is requesting that game 2 be played behind closed doors or else they will forfeit) a team that beat us in their place. We have to be ready but ending the week on a good note is definitely a good thing for us.”
While on the topic of the Coronavirus on the docket it’s been reported that the club will fly to Athens in a private plane and will be sequestered on a private floor in a hotel, only leaving for practice and the game which will be played behind closed doors. “I don’t know what’s going on but they will tell us tomorrow. I know there won’t be any fans again. They have a small gym and their fans would have gone crazy so I think it will help us more like it did them here. We’re just going to try to come out of there with a win.”
Will it be tough to play in any empty arena again if regulations and restrictions become tighter and tighter? “It’s going to be tough and you know how well we play in front of our fans. But we can’t make any excuses we got to play basketball, make the shots and play defense. It’s something we need to talk and be ready if anything happens.”
“The game was fun and it was very exciting to be part of the rivalry against Maccabi. The key was just coming out and being aggressive. Coach wanted us to take our chances. We had a game plan and we were able to take good shots. It was good to be a part of the game.”
Coach Oded Katash
“The game began without any defense. We had a great run and went 9/10 from three. We played well defensively in the second quarter and the game was over by then.”
“We are just trying to concentrate on what we can control which is playing basketball. We have an important game coming up. Hapoel Jerusalem is a club that will try and take all of the titles. Although we didn’t have a full arena they really pushed us. Hopefully the games will continue and we can get through the Coronavirus.”