AMAR’E Stoudemire, the 33-year-old six-time NBA All-Star, is with Hapoel Jerusalem. .
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
"The energy is special here and it’s something that is gravitating.”
Those were the first words uttered by Amar’e Stoudemire when he landed back in Israel on Thursday morning to begin his second stint with Hapoel Jerusalem. The six-time NBA All-Star returns to the capital after winning his first league championship with the Reds in 2017. The 2003 NBA Rookie of the Year’s comeback to the Holy Land had been in the works for some time after not playing competitive basketball last season.
“STAT” (Stand Tall and Talented), as he is also called, visited Israel a couple of times in the last year, most recently in April when he also took part in a number of practices with Jerusalem coach Oded Katash. When asked a few months ago if he would want the legend to return, Katash didn’t hide his excitement about the thought of Stoudemire being part of the team.
“Amar’e was with us for two practices and he is such an amazing person. Not just that he’s a great player but he brings so much positive energy and personality. You can see how the fans adore him and he deserves it. I never thought that I’d have the opportunity to consider having him play with us, but I wouldn’t discount the possibility of having a player like Amar’e.”
Stoudemire also expressed his feelings about why he decided to return to play under Katash.
“When I traveled here last year, I practiced with the guys and he was able to see my skill set. I think that helped him being comfortable enough to want me to come back and play in Jerusalem this year.”
However, his arrival back to Jerusalem was not without a hiccup. In July, general manager Guy Harel proclaimed on Hapoel’s media outlets that Amar’e was returning, but the former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks star denied the report and said that nothing had been closed with the team. But, this time when all was signed, sealed and delivered, Stoudemire made the announcement about his comeback and posted on his Instagram account that he was returning.
“Shalom Jerusalem, I’m coming back! Our team Hapoel Jerusalem wants to take home more titles, so let’s get it.”
For the beginning of his second tenure with Jerusalem, it’s reported that Amare will play in the FIBA Basketball Champions League where there is no foreigner limitations, and from there the team will see when he will rejoin the squad for domestic league games as well.
After landing at Ben Gurion Airport on Thursday morning, Stoudemire spoke about what he had done last season to stay in shape for the opportunity at hand.
“I worked out and stayed in shape since I left. I played in the Big 3 League and kept myself very active and in shape. I’m in impeccable shape and I’ve been training the whole summer.”
After a disappointing season both in European and Israeli league play last year, Hapoel Jerusalem will want to get back to the basics and be a contender from Day 1.
With a number of new players in the lineup, including Tamir Blatt, Chris Johnson, James Feldeine, Josh Owens and Da’Sean Butler, together with Israeli veterans Lior Eliyahu, Bar Timor and Yogev Ohayon, there’s no question that the Reds will be able to take a run at champion Maccabi Tel Aviv.
By moving from the Eurocup to the Champions League, it’s also clear that Hapoel will look to take advantage of its veteran-laden roster and loyal fan base to reach the summit of the relatively new league as well.
Stoudemire is fully aware of what the team’s goals are this campaign especially with the chance of hosting the Final Four at its home arena in Jerusalem.
“We are just trying to get back to the top. Last season was an OK run but this year there is a different style of play and a new coach. The players that were brought in will be very helpful and I think we’re going to have a good year.”
There’s no question that Amar’e is back and back where he belongs in the Holy Land.
“Being in Israel is always a beautiful place to be for me and Jerusalem is close to my heart.”
Welcome back “STAT”!
Stoudemire will be at Hapoel Jerusalem’s Hol HaMoed Sukkot free basketball clinic on Friday, beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Jerusalem YMCA Sports Center on George Washington Street. So come out and learn from the best while having tons of fun!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. Contact the Sports Rabbi via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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