Hapoel Holon opens up its Champions League campaign on Wednesday night (19:30 Israel time) with a clash in Greece against AEK Athens in what should be a thrilling matchup at the OAKA Arena. Holon enters the game after defeating fellow Israeli Champions League participant Hapoel Jerusalem in WINNER Cup semifinal action while AEK will begin their continental campaign after falling in the final of the 2019/20 Champions League FINAL 8 Tournament to San Pablo Burgos.
Holon coach Stefanos Dedas is looking forward to the challenge as he readies his squad for battle with the goal of advancing deep into the competition. The bench boss looked ahead to the opener at AEK:
“This is our first game in the Champions League this season and we are excited to represent the club in a European competition that is of the highest caliber. We are expecting a tough game against one of the strongest teams in the competition who have played in two finals in three years.”
“We have a great opportunity to show that we can compete with AEK with our ability to battle and our strategy which will force them to work hard against us. We want to record a good result despite their much higher budget.”
Dedas also shared his general thoughts on the Champions League group in front of his club along with his goals, “Our target is to be in the Final Four of every competition. This year the Champions League is a shorter competition and there’s big motivation for us to advance for the first time out of the group stages. We were close last year but we are in a tough group with AEK, Minsk who have size and are athletic and Cholet who have dangerous domestic players and Americans. We are motivated and we have the quality to do it, but one mistake can take you out of the competition. We have to be careful game by game and have to be sharp from the first game.”
Captain Guy Pnini who won the Euroleague title with Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2014 has many years of rich experience in continental play knows that this year will be a battle in Europe, “From a statistical point of view it gives us a better chance to advance but we have a very tough group and we play AEK to begin the campaign who are one of the best teams. You have very few chances to correct mistakes and there is a very small margin for error.”
Dedas will have a roster full of terrific ball handlers and veteran players, both Israelis and Americans, “I believe in all of the players and we don’t have a deep roster which means players will be playing a lot of minutes and we have those who can play multiple positions. We have forwards who can guard various players and we built the team to force teams to play with us which fits to my philosophy.”
Although the squad has plenty of top notch 3-point shooters in Tyrus McGee, CJ Harris, Isaiah Miles, Chris Johnson and Pnini there is much more to the team that just going from deep, “We shoot 3-pointers but very few people see that we have very good percentage from two. We work a lot on the details and players who can shoot high percentages from two. We brought players in who can fight for the team.”
Pnini also spoke about the offense that Holon will play this season, “We don’t only practice 3-pointers but we have some very good shooters as well as Miles who also can play the center position for us. I’ve played on many different teams that can shoot and this is part of our system and philosophy.”
Hapoel Holon will have Oded Brandwein available for the game but veteran point guard Yogev Ohayon will be out for 3-4 more weeks due to injury.