After a strong 7DAYS EuroCup campaign that saw Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem reach a decisive Game 3 in the semifinals, the Israeli champs worked hard to keep the core of the team intact. And where they did add new faces, they are all of the experienced variety. The most significant change may have been on the sidelines, where former EuroCup Coach of the Year Fotis Katsikaris was handed the reins. After helping Unicaja Malaga win the competition last season, center Alen Omic comes to Jerusalem with the same goal, while power forward Austin Daye arrives to play in a country where his father spent two seasons in the 1990s. And after six seasons and 138 games in the EuroLeague, Yogev Ohayon returns to Jerusalem, where he played from 2009 through 2011.
Coach Katsikaris will have plenty of ways to be creative with five guards who have been the main ball-handler on a team before. Curtis Jerrells, who won the 2016 EuroCup with Galatasaray Istanbul, earned All-EuroCup First Team honors last season as the team’s top scorer (16.8 ppg.) and three-point shooter (44.0%) and ranked second in assists (3.7 apg.). The lightening-quick Jerome Dyson thrives in transition and with penetration, which were among the weapons he had on display when he starred in last season’s quarterfinal’s sweep of Herbalife Gran Canaria. Veteran Yotam Halperin has seen his minutes drop over the past 12 months, but he is just as reliable as a passer and three-point marksman as he has ever been and will always provide leadership when he enters the game. Yogev Ohayon is a natural point guard who will look to set up teammates before himself and also comes off the best three-point shooting season of his career (44.0%). A part-time starter last season, Bar Timor is entering the prime of his career and looking to have a breakout season. Tarence Kinsey, who is the only natural small forward on the roster, is a complete player and a defensive ace, whose abilities tie the squad together.
Alen Omic has been one of the very best centers in the EuroCup over recent seasons, culminating with his role in Unicaja’s march to the title last season. His combination of size, mobility and rebounding aptitude makes Omic a force inside. He will team with Richard Howell, who joined Jerusalem late last season and gives the team a different look as a smaller center with a strong low-post game. Two-time Israeli League MVP Lior Eliyahu is a headache for all who face him because of his speed, passing ability and quick-release one-handed jumper. With 2.11-meter Austin Daye on the floor, Jerusalem will have four three-point shooters on offense and a size advantage on defense.
PLAYER TO WATCH
There is only one player on the Jerusalem roster without previous EuroCup experience, but Richard Howell has the talent to make up for that. He has been among the Israeli League’s top rebounders in each of the past two seasons after which he was called into the Israeli national team for EuroBasket 2017. Howell proved up to the challenge by leading his side in scoring (17.8 ppg.), steals (3.3 spg.) and performance index rating (21.5). If Howell can reproduce those skills for Jerusalem in the EuroCup while splitting minutes at center with Alen Omic, the rest of the players will get lots of good looks from the perimeter and Jerusalem will be a very tough team to beat.
Jerusalem will be one of the most-experienced teams in the competition boasting eight players with previous EuroLeague experience and only three rotation players born in the 1990s. A march deep into the competition last season only served to whet the appetite of the Jerusalemites. While there is no question about the team’s talent, chemistry or drive, Jerusalem is also starting the season with a new head coach and if injuries strike, the bench may suddenly get very short. But if all goes according to plan, Jerusalem could be in the mix for its second EuroCup crown.