Hapoel Jerusalem locked into coming season

After promising preseason, new swingman Lockett expresses optimism over club’s chances for success - Interview.

AMAR'E STOUDEMIRE helped lead Hapoel Jerusalem to the BSL Final Four this week, but will he be with the team next season? (photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
AMAR'E STOUDEMIRE helped lead Hapoel Jerusalem to the BSL Final Four this week, but will he be with the team next season?
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
Hapoel Jerusalem opened up its preseason slate with four wins in five games, which included a trip to Italy to participate in the prestigious Cagliari Tournament. So far the Reds have looked good, knowing when to turn up and down the heat, as well as being able to implement aspects that coach Oded Kattash had asked of them.
The new players have been able to join the old almost seamlessly as CEO/GM Guy Harel attempted to bring in the pieces that had been missing last season when Jerusalem fell short in the Basketball Champions League and the Israeli Winner League.
It’s clear that the players brought in this campaign to complement those who remained were in response to a number of issues that the team had last season.
Tamir Blatt, James Feldeine, TaShawn Thomas, Bar Timor and J’Covan Brown are as solid a core as you’re going to get in this league, and they’ll be joined by Suleiman Braimoh, Idan Zalmanson, Nimrod Levi, Mindaugas Kupšas, Isaiah Cousins and Trent Lockett, as well as Daniel Rosenbaum and Dvir Ringvald.
Whether it was toughness, size or outside shooting it seems that the weaknesses have been addressed and that’s a good sign for the Jerusalem fans. Will there be more changes? There could be, but for right now it looks like Katash has some good material to work with going forward and he’s definitely content with the roster as is.
Lockett in particular will play a central role for the team. The 6-foot-6 (1.98m) swingman is a tough-nosed defensive stopper and has already been able to show his wares in preseason action.
The Jerusalem Post had the chance to catch up with the veteran to discuss how he’s adjusting to Jerusalem, his new teammates and the value of the preseason.
“I feel good so far,” said Lockett. “We have a number of wins and it’s a good way to break the ice. I’m feeling more and more comfortable everyday here and we have a good group of guys.”
Playing against top competition is key for Jerusalem as it prepares for the season ahead, as the expectations mounted after winning the State Cup last year but failing to advance out of the quarterfinals in the Champions League and falling to Rishon in the Israel league semifinals.
“The loss to Khimki Moscow at the Cagliari Tournament taught us how we shouldn’t play and I knew we could only go up from there,” said Lockett. “I’m happy with the two wins over Dinamo Sassari and now we can’t wait to get the season started.”
One of the important factors of the preseason is to prepare the team for the upcoming campaign. In that sense, results aren’t as crucial as the actual game play itself, however, winning is always an important aspect for any player or club.
“Obviously winning is important, but at this stage of the season, we are just trying to get comfortable with each other,” noted Lockett. “We have to work on things that the coach is implementing early on. With the type of team that we have, winning is important and it’s something we hang our hat on and we want to do a lot more of it during the season so it’s good to start early.”
After playing the past two seasons with Unics Kazan in Russia, Lockett earned the reputation of being a lockdown defender and he is well aware that this role will be critical to the success of the club.
“I think we’ve played well and we can take steps to get better on defense which is a big role that’s on my shoulders. Offensively we have building blocks and a core group of guys that was already here. We have a little bit of that rhythm and everybody is fitting in around that.”
Lockett, who played at Arizona State between 2009-2012 and then at Marquette from 2012-2013 to be closer to his mother while she was ill, believes the most crucial aspect for any team is communication on the court and that is something that not enough people pay attention to.
“To me, it’s one of the most undervalued things in basketball and when we have good communication out there, it makes everything easier,” Lockett said. “If we can continue doing that, it’s going to help us be successful.”
One of the big pluses for Jerusalem, Lockett noted, was that the core of the team continued together as the Reds look to build a culture for the future of the franchise. Along with that, it allows the newcomers a chance to fit in quickly and sets the team up to succeed down the road.
“That’s super important and you don’t see that a ton in Europe, building around that core,” Lockett said. ‘You see that in the better Euroleague teams but for this program and this organization to keep that core of guys, shows that they are trying to build something here. They helped set the foundation and that makes it easy for guys like me to fit in and help the team.”
Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel sports adventures for tourists and residents
(www.sportsrabbi.com). Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or contact the Sports Rabbi via email at [email protected]