Amare Stoudemire marks new era for Jerusalem

After losing twice this season to Maccabi Tel Aviv, being without 3 key players in domestic league action and after being knocked out by Tenerife in Champions League play, it looked like Hapoel Jerusalem had almost no chance of beating the Yellow & Blue this week. Not only didn’t they look like they could take down Maccabi, it looked like they were ready to capitulate on finishing in first place in the league standings and basically give up the chance of hosting the Basketball Super League Final Four at their home arena.

However, that was before Amare Stoudemire had his say.

Dov Halickman Photography

Jerusalem has had numerous problems this season including matching up with bigger teams who play more physical and aggressive basketball who were able to outplay the likes of power forward Tashawn Thomas and center Josh Owens. Whether it was Maccabi Tel Aviv, Rishon Le’Zion or Hapoel Holon, Oded Katash’s squad was unable to stand up to the challenge.

However, that was before Amare Stoudemire had his say.

The Reds had been dominated by the yellow-and-blue losing twice in league action. But that was until they played for a third time this season, however, no one and I mean no one believed that Jerusalem would have a chance to win. The PAIS Arena was nowhere close to being sold out and the atmosphere was dank before tipoff as the faithful just didn’t think there was any way their team could pull off the victory.

However, that was before Amare Stoudemire had his say.

STAT, making his first start of the season against Maccabi in domestic league play after becoming an Israeli citizen last month, didn’t exactly light the place up over the opening quarter as Maccabi jumped out to a 27-18 lead. It looked like this game was going to be yet another repeat of the last two; blowout victories for Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad.

However, that was before Amare Stoudemire had his say.

Jehoshaphat, Amare’s Hebrew name, was just warming up. The big man injected some life into Jerusalem to begin the second quarter as he moved and grooved on the court much younger than his 36 years and 992 games as a professional. He induced fouls and began dominating the inside while setting up what would be a sensational second half.

With Jerusalem down by only one point at the start of the third quarter, Amare turned back the clock to his days with the Phoenix Suns. He rattled off 7 straight points and put his stamp on the game while sending a message out to the rest of the league, in Michael Jordan-esque fashion:

I’m back.

Amare bested his matchup against Maccabi Tel Aviv big men Tarik Black and Alex Tyus, both of them younger than he. Actually, he left them in the dust, outscoring the duo 22-10. He also seemed to relish the opportunity to play Black, who he had tipped off against a couple of times in the NBA. “It felt like an NBA matchup and it was definitely a beautiful thing to be able to compete at a high level with Tarik Black,” Stoudemire explained.

Dov Halickman Photography

In reality it wasn’t just the personal matchup that was of the utmost importance to Amare, but also turning the page and putting the Champions League elimination in the rearview mirror. “This win was very important as we were still mourning the loss at Tenerife. We know how much we wanted to go into the Final Four here at home but we came out with composure and we got the win.”

One of the amazing things about the 6-time NBA All-Star is that he is always learning and always looking for ways to get better and improve his game, “There are so many ways that I can still improve and effect the game in a positive way. One thing I liked about the Maccabi game was that I saw areas where I can be dominant and I’m going to take that into consideration and keep learning.”

Dov Halickman Photography

For his teammates, who for the majority of the season only were able to play with him in continental competition, it was almost like a godsend to have the big man on the court in the Israeli league. “He’s a big factor,” began James Feldeine, one of Jerusalem’s most important players. “He’s Amare Stoudemire, NBA All-Star. He brings a high level of leadership and intensity on the court. He helps us on the court big time.”

Before the game, Maccabi Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos declared that Jerusalem was about to enter a new era with the addition of Amare Stoudemire in domestic league play. Boy was he ever correct.

Amare has fired the first shot. He’s back, he’s hungry and he wants to return the league championship to Jerusalem.

Dov Halickman Photography

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