Maccabi Haifa 311.
(photo credit: Maccabi Haifa website)
After coming so close to the Eurocup final four last season, Hapoel Jerusalem is
looking to go one better in the coming campaign.
Hapoel begins its
Eurocup regular season against VEF Riga at Malha Arena on Tuesday night, hoping
to get off to a winning start after only barely coming through the first group
stage to advance to the last 16 last season.
Also Tuesday, Hapoel
Gilboa/Galil will make its Eurocup debut at Cedevita Zagreb, while the
EuroChallenge regular season also gets underway, with Maccabi Haifa visiting
Skyliners Frankfurt and Barak Netanya traveling to Belgacom
Jerusalem was eventually edged by Alba Berlin in the Eurocup
quarterfinals last season, and coach Oded Katash knows that if his team has any
intention of reaching the knockout stages once more, it cannot afford a home
defeat against Riga.
“We are facing a tough challenge and a big test over
the coming weeks,” Katash said after seeing his team improve to 3-2 in the BSL
with a road victory over Ironi Ashkelon on Sunday.
“We have quite a few
players who are not accustomed to playing in European competition and are not
used to playing two games a week. I believe it will take them a little time to
get used to it. This will be quite a challenge, but we are embracing
Jerusalem will be a firm favorite against a Latvian side which likes
to run and dictate a fast pace to the game.
Riga looks to be the weakest
team in Group G, which also includes strong Spanish side Cajasol Seville and
Czech league perennial champion CEZ Nymburk, but Hapoel will still have to keep
a close eye on playmaker Sandis Valters and dangerous scorer Kristaps
“We are all excited ahead of the game against Riga,” Hapoel
forward Dion Dowell said.
“This is our first chance to show what we can
do in European competition and we will be ready to claim the
Gilboa, which was handed a place in the Eurocup after falling to
Serbia’s Hemofarm Stada Vrsac in the first qualifying round of the Euroleague,
has got its season off to an erratic start.
The reigning BSL champion
fell to 2-3 in the BSL after losing at home to Maccabi Rishon Lezion on Saturday
and coach Lior Lubin is expecting a tough time against Zagreb.
facing a team with a Croat character which plays hard defense and has players of
a size we are not used to playing against in the BSL,” said Lubin, whose team
will also play Aris Thessaloniki and Ukrainian league champ BC Azovmash in Group
“Our players are very excited and we are looking forward to the
After overcoming Paris Levallois in impressive fashion in the
qualifying round, Maccabi Haifa is looking to make some damage in the group
stage, starting with its opener at Frankfurt.
“We are treating the
EuroChallenge as a bonus and we hope to make the most of it,” said Haifa coach
Elad Hasin, who will be looking for his team to rebound from Sunday’s league
loss at Bnei Hasharon.
“We are going to Germany to win and I hope that we
know how to cope with playing two games a week. Our goal is to advance to the
Haifa also faces BT Ventspils of Latvia and Ukraine’s BC
Khimik Yuzhny in Group B.
Netanya faces a Liege team which was knocked
out in the qualifying round of the Eurocup by Jerusalem and has won just one of
six games so far in the Belgian league.
Like Gilboa and Haifa, Netanya is
also entering its continental opener on the back of a local defeat after falling
to Maccabi Ashdod on Sunday.
“We are ready and are hoping to quickly
correct the mistakes we made in Ashdod,” Netanya coach Arik Alfasi said ahead of
On TV: Eurocup: VEF Riga at Hapoel Jerusalem (live on
Channel 1 at 7 p.m.)