PREVIEW! “It’s a tough day for basketball; we stepped up defensively last week” – James Feldeine reflects on the Kobe Bryant tragedy and looks ahead to Champions League action vs Burgos

Hapoel Jerusalem hosts San Pablo Burgos in Champions League action of Gameday 13 of the continental competition. The Reds hold a 9-3 record and need a win to sew up first place in Group B which will give them home court advantage while the Spanish squad come into the contest holding a 7-5 record as they attempt to stay in the running for the group’s top spot.

With the Kobe Bryant tragedy still fresh in everyone’s minds, Jerusalem Head Coach Oded Katash spoke about what the superstar meant to the game if basketball and his he transcended the sport, “I have to admit that my guy was Michael Jordan, but over the years no one could believe including myself that Kobe would become so dominating with his amazing charisma and the great desire to succeed. His passing is a huge shock I’m sure to all those who love the game of basketball.”

“It was a devastating accident,” said Jerusalem star James Feldeine. “I still don’t believe it and I wish it wasn’t true. I grew up on Kobe, Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson as being iconic figures in my basketball career. That was my brother’s favorite player, he has every one of his jerseys and he’s been to so many games to watch him play, I know what my brother is going through right now. I’ve been wearing his she is the last three seasons and giving me a lot of good luck and I made a lot of shots because of them. It’s a tough day for basketball in Europe and America.”

Bryant was able to live up to the hype that accompanied him into the NBA explained Katash, “Kobe entered the NBA with many expectations and was constantly compared to Michael Jordan and the greats. Most players in this situation would break under these expectations but he turned himself into one of the greats himself. I’ve been coaching for 14-15 years and there is always banter in the lockerroom about who was better Michael or Kobe. To me as a Jordan fan, this in essence was Kobe’s greatest achievement.”

Many players in the game today followed Kobe when they were children and most probably had a big effect on them as they decided on a career in basketball according to Katash, “This was a huge shock for the players as each one grew up watching Kobe and his influence in itself helped them choose the spot of basketball. The pleasure he gave to millions of people was unprecedented and the tragedy is very painful.”

Feldeine reflected on Kobe’s final game as one of his vivid memories which teammate Shelvin Mack took part in as a player for the Utah Jazz, “I watched his last game a few times and I watched it live when he had 60 points. Shoutout to Shelvin Mack who got some of those 60 points on him, but a lot of people can say that. I definitely remember that and many of the special moments in his career. It’s tough to even think about.”

Moving over to the game, Katash is well aware that the stakes for Jerusalem are high against Burgos, “This is the most important European game to date and there will be more in the future. In my mind this is a game against the best team in the group and this is our biggest challenge. We lost to them in Spain and they are coming into the game with a chance to take first place and we will have to bring our A-Game on both sides of the court.”

Feldeine agree with his coach, “This is the most important game in Europe this season. AEK coming here was tough because we were always battling. But Burgos is a tough team and the best team in our group even though they lost a few more games than us. This game is for a lot of things for us, but I don’t want to say it (homecourt advantage) we want this game because we all know that if we win what it will mean for us and what it and for the fans, the organization and the city of Jerusalem.”

Defense will be the key to victory said Feldeine, “The last home game we played against Elan Bearnais we stepped up defensively, starting with myself but now we gave more legs with Shelvin and John Holland. I think we will be ready and the beat us so we like to avenge our losses.”

Katash believes the players can step up on defense and will rise to the challenge while also indicating that while he likes a player like free agent DeAndre Kane he’s not in the cards for this season, “We aren’t looking to bring in another player at this point although I really do like DeAndre Kane, but this isn’t something that will happen this year and I believe that we have the tools to defend well, we just have to bring it to the table.”

“They have a great shooter and one of the coaches disrespected me by saying that he is one of the best in the Champions League, that can’t happen. Every game they have different players that step up like us and they are the same way. They had a big guy (Earl Clark) that killed us on the boards and they have a shooter that shot the lights out against us (Vitor Benite) and two point guards (Thad McFadden & Ferraro Bassas) that can really pass the ball and get into the paint. We gave a lot of things to stop in order for us to win the game.”


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