Hapoel Jerusalem took another significant step towards becoming the Israeli and European powerhouse co-owner Ori Allon has promised to make it after being gifted a place in the Euroleague qualifying rounds on Wednesday.
Despite being knocked out in the semifinals of the BSL playoffs, failing to reach the final for a seventh straight year, Allon’s big plans for Hapoel and the fact the team will be moving into the new Jerusalem Arena next season convinced the Euroleague to hand the club a wild-card entry into the qualifiers for 2014/15.
The Executive Board of Euroleague Commercial Assets, meeting in Barcelona on Wednesday, unanimously agreed to propose team lists for the upcoming 2014/15 season.
According to the Euroleague, “the board reviewed plans offered by Euroleague Basketball management that aim to ensure the continued growth and stability of the organization’s competitions while offering clubs a clear route to their individual and collective development.”
The Euroleague is hoping to ultimately create a framework that would allow Euroleague Basketball and the domestic leagues to take the next steps towards an eventual European League model.
The board’s proposed team list for the Euroleague includes two replacement teams that were given a berth after others were unable to fulfill the necessary requirements to participate.
Cibona Zagreb was substituted by the next-best Adriatic League team, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade, and Italian League finalist Montepaschi Siena was replaced by the next-best team in the competition, Dinamo Banco di Sardegna Sassari.
Additionally, the board accepted Budivelnik Kiev’s offer to rescind its participation in the Euroleague Qualifying Rounds next season due to political uncertainty in Ukraine, which also helped make room for Jerusalem.
Hapoel faces a very tough task in the qualifiers, which will include seven other teams: ASVEL Lyon of France, CEZ Basketball Nymburk of the Czech Republic, Levski Sofia of Bulgaria, Stelmet Zielona Gora of Poland, Strasbourg of France, Telenet Ostend of Belgium and Unics Kazan of Russia.
The rebuilding process at Jerusalem got off to a fast start last week with the addition of coach Danny Franco and last season’s BSL MVP Donta Smith.
The 31-year-old Smith, who signed a three-year deal, helped Maccabi Haifa to an historic championship in 2012/13 and will be aiming to take Jerusalem back to the BSL final for the first time in eight years.
Smith, who was also courted by Maccabi Tel Aviv, joins Yotam Halperin, Lior Eliyahu and Derwin Kitchen, who are all under contract for next season, with Jerusalem also hoping to extend the deals of Josh Duncan, Bracey Wright and Art Parakhouski, as well as strengthen its Israeli core.