Hapoel Jerusalem held their annual player-fan event to kick off the new season as more than 500 children and adults descended upon the First Station in Jerusalem to enjoy an afternoon of fun in the sun.
The Reds not only introduced their squad to the fans, the players also signed autographs and took pictures with everyone present. Along with selling merchandise including their brand new “Jerusalem City” line, there were booths set up for face painting and basketball shooting challenges.
Of course the highlight of the event was public address announcer Matanel Barashi bellowing each players name on the loudspeaker which followed by the players running through the crowd while hi-fiving the kids. Once everyone was announced and all of the players were on stage, owner Eyal Homsky along with head coach Aleksandar Dzikic and captain Itay Segev addressed the crowd as the fans roared with approval.
“I want to thank the Hapoel Jerusalem family for coming out today to meet and greet the players. I always have said that Hapoel Jerusalem is more than a club but a family. We are one big family that always looks to win and that is what we will do this season. We need all of the fans in both the good and tough times because there are always some of those as well. We always have to stick together.”
Following the spectacular event, veteran Oz Blayzer, who joined Jerusalem during the summer spoke about how the team has been getting along to date as they ready for the new season while he also looked as his role as a veteran and how excited he is to make an impact in the capital city.
“It’s great to be here and to see so many people who are ready to support us. That gives us so much energy ahead of the new season and I hope just as the fans are making us happy we can do the same for them throughout the campaign.”
As for how he has been treated since his arrival in the capital city, Blayzer explained that it’s been a positive experience from the get go, “The people at Jerusalem are really like a family. As soon as I arrived here and coming from the center of the country which isn’t easy, everyone welcomed me with open arms. The fans have stopped me in the street and wish me good luck and it’s just great to get that love. There is really a family here and we are building the foundation for that when we will have some tough times during the season.
Jerusalem is almost a brand new team with a total overhaul of the roster from last season as the likes of Khadeen Carrington, Speedy Smith and Levi Randolph have all arrived as well as Gilad Levy, Or Cornelius and Blayzer himself to name a few.
“We are working on coming together to become a team that will never give up. In sports you can’t win it all and sometimes you will lose, but if you give 200% and you end up falling you can go to sleep knowing you had done everything in your power. That a good basis as to what we want to accomplish this coming season.”
“We are still very early on in the season and we are still building the team. We are a very deep and balanced team with plenty of quality. We are learning how each other play and we are looking to improve game to game. The upcoming Winner Cup is good preparation for that.”
Aleksandar Dzikic is Jerusalem’s new coach and comes to the club with many years of experience throughout Europe as well as also having been an assistant coach in the NBA. When asked about the club’s new Serbian bench boss, Blayzer smiled and spoke about the tactician’s style of play, “It’s a bit different than what we are used to in Israeli basketball. There is a lot of movement, taking advantage of mismatches and teamwork. Our goal is that the team will be bigger than the sum of its parts.”
Blazyer arrives in Jerusalem after two seasons at Maccabi Tel Aviv and has in fact played at a number of large teams in the country from Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion and Maccabi Haifa. However, with the Reds, the power forward has a chance to make a huge impact by taking all of the experience he has accumulated over the years.
“That’s something that I really want and that’s why I came here, to lead the team to success and to be an integral part both on and off of the court. So far, I am receiving that opportunity and I want to repay that as much as I can. For me, I’ll do everything for the team to succeed whether that means there will be days where we need points, rebounds or to dive on the floor or to jump as high as I can. I’ll give it my all.”