Hapoel Jerusalem tips off against Darussafaka on Monday night (21:00) at the Jerusalem Arena to open up the Basketball Champions League season. The Reds will have an almost brand new squad as well as a new face on the bench in Aleksandar Dzikic who arrives with a lengthy resume with his most recent stop in Montenegro where he guided Buducnost.
Jerusalem’s Turkish foes features a mix of veteran foreigners and young Turkish players who will no doubt challenge the hosts every single step of the way with Selcuk Ernak guiding the Istanbul based squad since 2018.
Speedy Smith, the Reds new floor general understands what his team needs to do in order to get the continental campaign off to a good start, “Just focus, understand what our game plan is, focus, execute and play hard while being disciplined on offense and defense. But at the same time be ready to adjust for anything that they can possibly do during the game.”
While Darussafaka may not be the most glitziest team in Europe, Coach Dzikic knows full well that they will be a handful on this night, “This is a club that I have great respect for as they understand what they want. When you see the coach working there for years that means they understand the entire of professional sports. They are very well covered on the 1-2 positions and have 3 dominant ball handlers plus Gabriel Olesani who has played on the next level so far this preseason. They have younger Turkish players who understand their roles plus ambitious foreign players.”
“It’s super important for us not to make them feel comfortable,” The Serbian bench boss continued. “That’s not easy because they always have two ball handlers on the floor and we have to be as physical as possible on Olesani. We need to move those go to guys and have other players to make the decisions.”
Smith who has shown that he can both score and create opportunities for other players over the course of the preseason feels that the work that the team has done should pay dividends in this opening contest, “I’m very happy with the prep and we have played enough games for this moment. We are excited to experience having a lot of fans in the arena on our side.”
As for the fans, Smith is also excited to see them get involved and help them on the floor, “We hope to get a win in this first game for the fan base and establish the relationship from the jump from the first second and get everyone pumped up and involve them in the game.”
For Dzikic, it’s not just about the result in the game that’s important but the entire package and seeing the process through by standing by the side of your team through thick and thin, “Come as many as you can. I am 100% sure the fans will recognize during the season what’s going on. I am a little but different and for me it’s not about winning or losing it’s about supporting the organization that you love even when they are losing. I understand that people are more open to supporting success but if you are hard core fan you like your team no matter what. That’s just me, I am not saying that is the right way to live and enjoy sports.”