Hapoel Jerusalem dunked Maccabi Ashdod 72-51 in the capital city in a game that saw the debut of NBA veteran guard Shelvin Mack along with newcomer John Holland’s first appearance at the Arena. Brad Greenberg’s undermanned Ashdod kept it tight for the first 15 minutes of the game but Oded Katash’s Reds quality showed over the last five minutes of the first half to pull a away for the win.
Suleiman Braimoh led a balanced attack for Jerusalem with 12 points, Tamit Blatt added 11 points, while Shelvin Mack and Idan Zalmanson each scored 10 points in the win. Paul Stoll was the Ashdod high scorer with 11 points.
Ashdod and Jerusalem began the game tight but a pair of Tamir Blatt triples put the Reds in front 11-5 midway through the first quarter. Paul Stoll and Elijah Johnson got the Ashdod offense into gear to pull even at 18-18 after ten minutes of play.
Greenberg’s squad continued to give Katash’s crew trouble as the Reds led 22-21 with 5:10 remaining in the second quarter. Nimrod Levi drilled a corner triple and Tashawn Thomas scored inside while Suleiman Braimoh and Stoll traded baskets but Blatt nailed a 3-pointer to end the half to give the hosts a 37-25 advantage.
Shelvin Mack and James Feldeine scored 3-pointers while Bar Timor scored as well to increase Jerusalem’s lead to 51-28 midway through the third quarter. Ike Ofoegbu tried to keep Ashdod in the game with 5 points but the Reds went into the final frame ahead 56-36.
Braimoh scored a pair of baskets but Tzuf Ben Moshe hit a couple from beyond the arc to keep the deficit at 20 points 64-44 with six minutes remaining in regulation time. Both teams cleared the benches for the remainder of the game as Jerusalem cruised to a 72-51 victory.
The Lead Point
One of the unique factors that makes Hapoel Jerusalem such an attractive place to play is how the club treats its players, especially those who are from abroad. Whether it was James Feldeine falling in love with the organization early last season and decided to sign a long term extension soon thereafter or Tashawn Thomas, J’Covan Brown and others the staff does a fabulous job in making sure that each and player and their family members have everything they need to succeed.
Of course, it’s not just the behind the scenes pieces of the club that are key, but also the professional side of it which is the product on the court. The fact that Jerusalem has both makes them a front runner to attract top level talent which is exactly what happened with signing Shelvin Mack and John Holland. Without both pieces, the Reds probably can’t make the impressive moves that they made to strengthen the squad.
Mack for example is a veteran NBA player with over 450 games under his belt in in 8 seasons where he featured for the Wizards, Hawks, 76ers, Jazz, Magic, Grizzlies and Hornets. His first season in Europe began with Ettore Messina at Milano but didn’t work out the way both sides had hoped, and that’s where Jerusalem was able to step in.
Not knowing anyone on the team could be a bit frightening for a player who up until this year hadn’t played aboard, but Jerusalem isn’t just another team with a special group of guys, “They welcomed me with open arms and I’m learning from them each and every day and I’m enjoying it,” explained Mack.
The unique family flavor hasn’t been lost on the Butler product, “It’s big especially in professional sports a lot of people have a lot of things on there mind. But when you have a group of guys and an organization that welcomes you with open arms and makes it feel like a family, it makes the transition and picking the team easy.”
John Holland how joined the Reds a couple of weeks ago has already experienced what Mack is going through right now, “It feels good. I’m no longer the new guy and I’m adjusting pretty well. My teammates have been walking me through stuff and helping me out to find my way and learn the plays on offense and defense. I really give all the credit to my teammates and coaches.”
And Mack, had almost identical words to describe how he felt after his first game for the club, “It felt good and my teammates gave me a lot of confidence to go out there and play. The club does a great job to make you feel comfortable and make it simple as possible.”
“The players have been good guys over the last two years,” Oded Katash said. “Just as John Holland was given respect, the same will be true for Shelvin. There is no question that he will feel the warmth of the organization as well. We now have another playmaker and ball handler and I believe we have made a positive move. Everyone here is looking to reach the same goal.”
With three titles on the line for Hapoel Jerusalem, they would be very happy to run the table and hit each one of those goals. Holland will do what he can to help the club hit them, “I’m just trying to do whatever I can whether it’s defense or scoring. Any given night you can do something else and your role can be different especially on this team where you have so many weapons and any given night someone can step up.”
How does Mack believe he will contribute to the team? “Just do the things that I can control. Come out and play hard, make shots and you might miss some, but just control things that I can control. Have a positive attitude and just use my experience to put guys in the right situation because at the end of the day it’s just basketball. I think I have a very high IQ of that.”
2) This wasn’t exactly a dream matchup or a top level game, but nonetheless Jerusalem needed to make sure they didn’t fall into the same trap that they did at Hapoel Gilboa Galil and they did exactly that by easily disposing of Maccabi Ashdod. “I think we did a good job defensively and we learnt our lesson from last game,” said a satisfied Oded Katash. The port city squad came into the game without an an ill Lior Eliyahu and an injured LaDontae Henton which certainly didn’t help their chances against a loaded Jerusalem team. It’s hard to see Brad Greenberg going through tough times with his team this season and they will now have to pick up the pieces and get ready for a game of the season next week when they host Hapoel Eilat.
3) Jerusalem still has plenty of work to do on the defensive side of the game as every player will need to step up if they have any design to win the three available titles, but especially the Champions League which is right at the top of the list. James Feldeine spoke about locking down on the defensive end, “We had some ups and downs and with Trent leaving both John and Shelvin can help us. Anwil played a lot of isolation and they broke off and hit some crazy shots. Teams like that can hurt us. Defensively we got to be better and now we are playing one of the teams that beat us (Elan Bernais).”