“If I don’t shoot, I’m not Yovel Zoosman” Jerusalem’s swingman looks back at the Cup win, season to date and what’s next

May 17, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Yovel Zoosman is without a doubt one of Hapoel Jerusalem’s most satisfied and happiest players after capturing the State Cup. The veteran Israeli who grew up in the Maccabi Tel Aviv system celebrated in front of the yellow-and-blue at his former stomping ground of Yad Eliyahu with a 85-72 victory as he put in an excellent performance with 9 points, 6 rebounds (3 offensive boards) and a +26 in 20 minutes.

Immediately after the contest, Zoosman conducted a special interview with The Sports Rabbi in the Hapoel Jerusalem lockerroom dressing room of Jerusalem, where he referred to among other things about overcoming a personally difficult start to the season as well as the final.

“Every win is special,” Zoosman began. “I think this time even more so because we looked very, very good in the second half, we were very sharp and we were together. We achieved one of the goals we set for ourselves, we’ll celebrate, but we are not satisfied because we get right back at it again as we have another game back here on Sunday against Maccabi Tel Aviv.”

Yovel Zoosman – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“This is the heart of the team, this is who we are, we always struggle at the beginning of the game and we have some difficulties but we find a way at the end. I’m full of emotions and I think you saw how happy we were because we’ve been working very, very hard for this since the beginning of the year. We had endless issues that have come and gone throughout the season. I’m happy.”

Zoosman did not have an easy start to this game as the swingman went 0/4 from the field including 0/3 from deep, but he did not give up because in the third quarter he helped turn the game right around with a huge comeback as he scored all of his 9 points in this period alone.

“This is who I am, if I don’t shoot the ball then I won’t contribute and if I don’t shoot I’m not Yovel Zoosman and that’s what I do,” he explained. ”I work very hard to improve my percentages and while I had a bit of a tough time, I didn’t keep shooting. I’ve been working so hard for so long, hundreds of thousands or millions of shots in my life and I had no doubt that it would go in. That’s who I am, if I don’t do that then I don’t contribute to the team as much as I can contribute. This is where it all starts.”

Yovel Zoosman – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Zoosman is content with Yonatan Alon coming down from the front office to the sidelines to coach the team, “First of all, they scored 46 in the first half and 26 in the second half (at this point Noam Dovrat burst out saying: “Yuval, smile, brother! You took home a trophy! as Zoos smiled in response), it shows that we defended very, very well, moved the ball, ran inn transition and made the game a little more fluid. I think what Yonatan is trying to instill in us is being a winning team and one team that has common values and that you can’t take someone out of the team. We’re all a team together where the sum of the whole is greater than the individual players and I think that we saw that in this game.”

“We realized that we can’t continue like this, that we can’t win if we don’t defend. 46 points in the first half is way too much, Alon warned us about this at halftime and we took it to heart. In the end, defense and doing things right wins games and I think we saw that here.”

One player who stood out was JaCorey Williams who scored 21 points (10/15 from two), 6 rebounds (4 offensive) and 2 steals in 30 minutes. “He played great. I think he’s a player of the highest levels in Europe in my eyes. He’s motivated, he has endless energy, he’s competitive, he always, always gives 100% and it’s fun because he plays without an ego. He gives everything on the court every day and we get to enjoy it.”

Yovel Zoosman – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Zoosman also looked back at his team’s comeback in a game that they started well, fell behind by double digits but then dominated en route to the victory.

“I think that in these kinds of games there is no tomorrow, you can’t think about what was and what will be, you just give everything at any given moment. While we shot in poor percentages at the beginning of the game, we came prepared and very-very-hungry as we said from the outset, ’Let’s see if they can take the trophy from us’ because it was ours from last year. I’m happy that we kept it.”

The swingman shared some of his feelings about some of the goals the team had entering the season and how staying it is when you hit the target, “This was one of our goals. We failed in some ways this seasons when we didn’t reach the next stage in Europe but here you saw the fans just like me, this makes us happy. 5,000 fans who came here, celebrated with us and were present with us through good and bad, it’s fun. I admit that I’m a player who doesn’t show a lot of emotions and that’s quite well known, but this fanbase brings something else out from me and I feel an amazing connection with them. It’s very special to be with them.”

Yovel Zoosman – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Finally, Zoosman spoke about what this victory means for the rest of the season, “Nothing in fact the opposite, we need to continue on because at the end of the day we will probably finish either fourth or fifth in the league’s regular season. We need to do our best to come in every day and try to finish the season with some sort of home court advantage for at least the quarterfinals. What we did here is not indicative of the future and we need to stay hungry, focused and never be satisfied.”

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