Hapoel Jerusalem will have a long summer to begin to retool its club after being eliminated from postseason play by Hapoel Gilboa Galil as they will put aside a season that looked like it was going to be a success and was anything but.
There is plenty of blame to go around as to why the team didn’t meet expectations from having three coaches, injures, different styles, a pandemic as well as a security situation that saw four imports leave the country. Whatever could go wrong, did for the Reds and as much as owner Eyal Homsky and CEO Guy Harel wanted things to go right they kept coming up short, time and time again.
But now is time to re-envision what Hapoel Jerusalem needs to like like going forward, who will remain and who will go and what the Reds need to do to get back to the top of the Israeli basketball world.
Those who lived through the season on the court know that there were plenty of ups and downs in what was perhaps the most challenging season in their own careers along with the club.
“It was a hell of a ride,” Suleiman Braimoh began. “We showed a lot of fight, a lot of heart and a lot of character. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, but if there is a silver loaning to it all is that we didn’t stop fighting.”
Braimoh and along with veteran guard Chris Kramer were the only two foreigners that made it through the entire year which had its ups and plenty of downs. “The whole season has been a roller coaster. We went down a lot more than we went up but at the end of the day I’m really proud of they group.”
Kramer, who has played at the highest levels of European basketball continued his thoughts on the campaign, “Personally it started really high and went down drastically. I hate to say that it was a good way to end on because you don’t want to end like this. Corona and war that was going on, it was tough. When adversity hits that is when you show your true character. We all fought and I think that is what everyone will remember despite the season not being as good as everyone anticipated.”
While the team faced plenty of adversity from Oded Katash’s departure to Panathinaikos, to Dainius Adomaitis who just never fit in it was the security situation that really put the finishing touches on the year everyone will want to forget.
Israeli big man Idan Zalmanson whose future is also a bit fuzzy due to the fact that he is Maccabi Tel Aviv property emphasized how the team finally turned the corner with interim coach Yonatan Alon after he had somewhat righter the ship, “We had a tough season but we felt that just before the security situation we were in our zone, playing our basketball and then everything fell apart.”
“I felt that if I could change the atmosphere in the club that we could get things back on track, Alon stated about when he took over from Adomaitis. “This is what happened and we began playing better basketball. We started to win a bit and then we lost the players due to the security situation.”
While many teams were able to keep their American players including their playoff opponent Hapoel Gilboa Galil, Jerusalem pretty much lost them all as four took off back to the United States. However, both Kramer and Braimoh would not question their former teammates as to their decision while the forward also spoke about his personal decision that he made to stay in the Holy Land.
“Guys left and I respect their decision. We brought in guys from the second division and some guys stayed. Our backs were against the wall and everyone counted us out. All we could do was to go out there and fight,” said Kramer.
“It was a very tough decision,” Braimoh stated. “I heard a lot of whispers about guys that did leave and a lot of negative, I stayed and I had a lot of reasons stay. We don’t have the right to tell any man what to do with his life. If anything they should be commended and supported in their decision. The negative backlash that they got doesn’t sit right with me.”
“I feel Jerusalem is one of the safer places to be and things were pretty calm and it was like going back to lockdown that we had during the corona season. Go to practice and come home, go to the supermarket and go home. Most of the time I’m at home anyways. I wasn’t out of my regular routine. Everyone wanted me to stay so that played a role.”
The roster will undergo some huge changes over the next month with Adam Ariel being the only significant Israeli that will most probity be a part of next season. Tamir Blatt will be headed to Alba Berlin and the Euroleague and Kramer most likely not be retained. The only foreigner that could be back and is Braimoh who has been as consistent a player on and off the court that Jerusalem would ever want but stills unsure as to where his future lies.
“I really don’t know, I love Israel and Israel has been good to me and my family for the last three years. I wouldn’t change that for anything. If you told me that I spent the last five years in Israel I wouldn’t be disappointed.”
“I just try to be consistent and I want everyone to know that on any given day you can always count on me to do what I do and give my best. If I am having a good day I can give some more, but I always want to be consistent, with my effort, energy and IQ, things that I can control,” said Braimoh.
“There’s always a possibility and if it happens I’ll be happy to be back.”