“I wanted to find a home.”
That’s how James Feldeine, Hapoel Jerusalem’s star guard, explained to The Jerusalem Post why he decided to extend his contract through the 2021 season with the team.
The Quinnipiac University product joined Jerusalem this season after spending last year with Red Star Belgrade in Serbia and the two seasons prior with Panathinaikos in Greece. The 30-year old has put up impressive numbers so far this campaign, scoring 15.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game in Israeli league action while clocking in with 17.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in Champions League play.
The unprecedented three-year extension was a surprise to many for a myriad of reasons, but at the end of the day it’s a one that both sides will benefit from.
“I’m 30 years old and I’ve been all over Europe, so I wanted to find that one place where I could stay a few years and develop some relationships,” said Feldeine. “Basketball isn’t for my whole life and I wanted to build some things and this is one of the best places to do it.
“We have a great group of guys with new players and we came together with our own goals and have become a team. The support of the fans is tremendous, win or lose. It’s a long season, but we’re coming into crunch time along with having the State Cup semifinals so we have a lot of things to accomplish.”
Eyal Chomsky, the managing partner and part of owner Hapoel Jerusalem spoke about the long term goals of the club and how Feldeine fits into the picture.
“We want to build a winning brand for the long term, but one that also has a soul. To do such a thing, we need not only excellent players but also even better people, and James is the best example of the type of player we want to be part of Hapoel Jerusalem,” said Chomsky
The team’s coach, Oded Katash, also commented on the signing in an upbeat manner.
“This is definitely a significant move for the club. He has tremendous character, he’s a great guy and a fantastic player. He always aspires to compete and I am sure that James will be a significant part of the club’s ability to compete for all of the titles this season and over the next two years,” said Katash.
It’s rare that a player of Feldeine’s magnitude would sign with Jerusalem prior to the season as the New York City native had featured significantly for teams in the Euroleague, the continent’s premier competition, which Jerusalem is not a part of. However, his decision was much more than just based on playing basketball, but one that looked at the larger picture.
“I felt like this is a Euroleague organization, I know it’s not the Euroleague, but I feel comfortable and like its home. I can show my abilities here and I wanted to find a place that I could call home. This is special place. I feel we are building something here and I wanted to be the first one to be a part of it,” said Feldeine.
Feldeine is really a rags-to-riches story, and to better understand that current University of Connecticut men’s basketball assistant coach Tom Moore – who was his head coach at Quinnipiac – spoke about what kind of special individual Jerusalem was able to acquire for the long term.
“I don’t know if there has been anyone that has continued to grow, evolve and improve as James has done from being a 19-year old to where he is now,” said Moore. “If someone had asked me back in 2007 if I thought that he would have had such a long and distinguished professional career overseas at the levels at which he has performed, I certainly wouldn’t have believe it.”
Moore continued: “In his freshman year he scored a grand total of eight points and played only 32 minutes the entire season. We were at the lower end of Division I and when someone starts their career like that they would be looking to transfer down to a Division II type of program. You’re certainly not thinking of the levels of success that James has accomplished.”
It took some time, but Feldeine finally began to make his breakout.
“Although his stats didn’t standout I really liked his attitude and he worked on his game quite a bit. I wanted to keep him at Quinnipiac to see how he would evolve,” noted Moore. “I didn’t have high aspirations, but he had a good sophomore season and he knew to get minutes he would have to be a good defender. However, it was in his junior and senior season years where he really flourished offensively and became one of the best players in our league and his confidence in those two years went through the roof.”
Feldeine’s Professionalism is a big key to success.
“It’s the way he approaches his craft and how he carries himself very well on and off the court. He gets it and he gets the responsibility about what it is to be a professional basketball player and what comes with the job. He’s been in a lot of big games and won’t be rattled in a hostile environment,” said Moore.
“James is somebody who will always be near and dear to my heart. I get a holiday card from him, his mother and brother every year. You won’t find more appreciative people than James’ mom and brother, when you see what kind of quality person James is you’ll know that he comes from such a terrific family. They are very special, as is he.”
And now Hapoel Jerusalem hopes that Feldeine’s specialness will continue to rub off on the basketball club.
Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel sports adventures for tourists and residents. Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or visit www.sportsrabbi.com. Feel free to contact the Sports Rabbi via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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