Speedy speeds up Jerusalem attack as Maccabi’s up next: Smith & Hankins look to take Reds high octane offense into Tel Aviv

Nov 20, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

When Speedy Smith is on his game, Hapoel Jerusalem is unstoppable and that was the case as they crushed Hapoel Galil Elyon 89-70 in their first game back after the international break. The point guard has had his ups and downs so far this early season but his defensive performance against Anthony Hickey and Hapoel Haifa right before the break and his stellar near triple double versus Galil Elyon shows just how Smith’s engine has been running.

For Smith, who conducted the Reds attack, it was full steam ahead as the St. Petersburg, Florida native nailed his shots, sliced to the hoop, dished out the rock as he got all of his teammates involved and grabbed some rebounds too in an all-around terrific showing.

“He played well and it was probably one of his best games during the season,” Head coach Aleksandar Dzikic said. “He didn’t hesitate, he made the right kind of decisions to keep everyone involved. He played in a good rhythm and played on both ends. Honestly, I think he needed that type of game. We will see how he will be in the future.”

Smith felt that the team had an excellent week of practice after returning from a short break in the schedule, “We had a lot of energy in practice and the game just translated from what we had done in practice. Everybody came very focused and we had a great week of practice after the break as we made simple plays and we played together.”

Zach Hankins – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Zach Hankins agreed with Smith’s assessment, “We all just started clicking. It’s been a little bit of a rough start to the season, we know that this team has a lot of expectations, but it’s an entirely new team and new coach, new everything. We needed time to learn his system, flow with each other and it’s been showing. I think we are in a good place right now and we are trending up. When we all came back we were locked in and focused. It’s been a really great week of practice and getting back into rhythm.”

With 19 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds, this was the Smith that the fans were hoping to see and he didn’t want to disappoint in front of over 5,000 fans who descended upon the Jerusalem Arena. It’s not that Smith is not producing or having a poor year so far, in fact that is far from it as he is averaging 10.8 points, 6.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds. But fans of the capital city reds are always looking to see their point guard run the show and run the team’s offense at a high octane level.

“Shout out to the fans that come and support us, Smith said. “This is my new home and them expecting and having expectations is ok, this is Hapoel Jerusalem so the expectations are going to be very high. It took some time to get to where we are now, but this is not where we want to be. We can smirk here but later down the line we want to have a big laugh.”

One of the happy recipients of Smith’s assists was Hankins who has been a double-double machine this campaign as he is checking in with 13 points and 12.8 rebounds a game. He dunked at will on Tamir Goodman’s Aviv basketball nets which for the first time also featured an advertisement so any time Hankins went up for a jam Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot got their fair share of TV coverage.

“I’m very happy and for me it’s just a blessing to be on the court,” Hankins said. “I was out for two years with two surgeries and it was rough. So to be playing like this and playing with guys that trust me who are very talented in a great club, I couldn’t be happier about it. A lot of what I do is attributed to other players as I don’t handle the ball and create my own shots. I can ISO in the post a little bit but these guys get me in the right spots. Rebounding, I am happy about that too as it used to be a weakness for me.”

The win was Jerusalem’s 4th in a row in Israel league play after an 0-2 slow start to the season and it’s also their 5th straight win across all competitions. But in order to continue winning, Dzikic sees that there are still plenty of things to work on despite the run and gun offense that spurred them to the victory.

Aleksandar Dzikic – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“We have some moments when we are super high level and focused, playing together and we had those moments in this game. Then for some unknown reason we go down from 1,000 to 0 in that focus very fast, we need to talk about that. Achieving that focus level is one thing but staying with that focus level is another,” the bench boss explained.

At the other end of the court, Galil Elyon head coach Barak Peleg would have loved to have had his point guard in Roi Huber available but he will be out with an injury to his finger for the next couple of months. Without Huber, the Galil Elyon offense led by Jalen Hudson, Deishuan Booker and Bryce Washington was not as potent as it usually is.

Barak Peleg – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“The team was built with Roi Huber as the starting point guard and is presence also sets up our entire rotation. We also had other players still out including Lotan Amsalem, but we will have to make do now with Huber for the next two months and we are trying to bring in a player to take some of the minutes at that spot. We had a very short roster and we don’t have the privilege to dig ourselves a hole in Jerusalem, but we have many games ahead.”

As for what lies ahead, Jerusalem has a big game coming up next Sunday at Hapoel Jerusalem which will be followed up by a Champions League home matchup against Baken Bears and then another home date with Kiryat Ata. Busy times are coming up for the Reds and their coach Aleksandar Dzikic.

“Maccabi have a super packed roster and they will figure out 12 guys to play against us on a super high level. On some teams their players would be starters and they have plenty of quality.”

Speedy Smith – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Smith also looked forward to the big game at the yellow-and-blue who have a super busy slate of games while Jerusalem will be practicing with games against Hapoel Tel Aviv, Olympiacos and a trip to Red Star Belgrade, “I’m a basketball player and I’m a competitor and everyone on this team are competitors. We are very confident in general. We need another strong week of practice and let this win translate as we are going for 6 (wins in a row). It’s Maccabi Tel Aviv but we will have the same approach as if it’s anybody.”

Finally, for Hankins, the game against Maccabi Tel Aviv at Yad Eliyahu will be a type of closure for him after having last played them back in the 2020 Final which saw Amare Stoudemire and company win the championship 86-81. In that contest, Hankins scored only 2 points in 25 very tough minutes of play and of course he would like the chance to put that performance in the rear view mirror with Hapoel Jerusalem.

“When I was with Rishon we beat them twice and then the championship was probably the worst game of my life as a player with two and lost the championship. I am ecstatic to play against them. I was told what our fans were chanting at the end of the game, well I am all for it! I am not going to repeat the words in Hebrew or English, but I am excited about it.”

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