Turning over a new yellow-and-blue leaf

Former Hapoel Jerusalem guard Jalen Adams joins Maccabi Tel Aviv, makes immediate impact

 JALEN ADAMS demonstrated his potential to Israeli basketball fans last season with Hapoel Jerusalem. Now, the 26-year-old guard (3) is playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv. (photo credit: Dov Halickman)
JALEN ADAMS demonstrated his potential to Israeli basketball fans last season with Hapoel Jerusalem. Now, the 26-year-old guard (3) is playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: Dov Halickman)

It doesn’t happen too often, but on occasion, there are players who move from Hapoel Jerusalem to Maccabi Tel Aviv.That was the case this past week when Jalen Adams joined the yellow-and-blue after a successful season in the capital city.

Some of the names Adams joined on this very exclusive list include star forward Terence Morris, Israeli guards Dror Hagag and Yogev Ohayon and most recently six-time NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire, who helped Maccabi win the 2020 Israeli League title.

Adams, 26, who played his college ball at the University of Connecticut between 2015-2019, arrived in Israel at the start of the 2021/22 season and joined Hapoel Jerusalem, where he had a superb campaign checking in with averages of 15.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists across both the Israeli League and Champions League.

Where did Jalen Adams come from?

Prior to having landed in the Holy Land, Adams played under Ryan Pannone, the former Reds assistant coach who was his bench boss at the Erie Bayhawks. The now New Orleans Pelicans first-year assistant had felt that Adams was just a small step away from the NBA and watching him play last year – and that was very close to the truth.

“Jalen is a playmaking combo guard who can really score at a high level. Last year in the G-League he was a 50/40/80 guy and can play on and off the ball. He’s a good creator and he was the guy I wanted to have the ball in his hands at the end of shot-clock situations because of his ability to attack the switch of the bounce and create for a teammate and create for himself.”

 JOHN DIBARTOLOMEO embraces his role as the captain of Maccabi Tel Aviv and hope to lead the yellow-and-blue to a fifth consecutive Israeli league championship. (credit: Dov Halickman) JOHN DIBARTOLOMEO embraces his role as the captain of Maccabi Tel Aviv and hope to lead the yellow-and-blue to a fifth consecutive Israeli league championship. (credit: Dov Halickman)

“He is very good in the open floor,” Pannone continued. “Good at getting downhill and getting on the rim as he is a very good rim finisher. Jalen is continuing to develop as a pick-and-roll player and for me he’s an NBA guy. He just needs a break and has the potential to play within the NBA.”

Pannone also referenced his strong character and a player who would be a true team player.

“He’s a good guy, really celebrates his teammates’ successes and cares about other people. He is continuing to develop as a person and as a player on and off the floor and as a result I think his potential is very high. He is someone that I love coaching and is someone who can make things happen as a player.”

Both on and off of the court, Adams lived up to every expectation set by Pannone and then some as he was the real deal for Jerusalem making him a prime target for a potentially a EuroLeague or perhaps an NBA club.

However, this past offseason came and went and Adams still had no place to call home until Darrun Hilliard went down with an injury at Maccabi, opening up the door for the Roxbury, Massachusetts, native.

Things came together very quickly, and Adams found himself in a yellow-and-blue uniform to the dismay of the Hapoel Jerusalem fans, who would have been very happy to welcome him back to the fold.

Adams made his way to Yad Eliyahu just a few days ago, ended up participating in a couple of practice sessions and then pulled on his brand-new jersey. He didn’t know how much he would play after battling jetlag, but he ended up on the court against Monaco in the critical moments of the game when Maccabi began coming back from a 19-point deficit late in the second quarter.

He ended up hitting a pair of crucial free throws to ice the 78-70 victory over the French club.

While his statistics won’t knock the socks off anyone – two points and two assists in seven minutes – Adams was able to make a difference on both ends of the court and also look like he fit right in as the fans chanted his name right before tip-off.

“It felt amazing,” Adams told The Jerusalem Post in the locker room after the victory. “Definitely a little nervous out there, but it was good to get the jitters out and I am just happy that we got the win.”

Adams is not taking the opportunity with Maccabi for granted and knows that it’s a privilege to play for a EuroLeague team as he takes a step up in his career arc.

“It’s a great opportunity to be out here, to play for this fan base for a great team like this. All of the games, especially at home, are going to be in a packed arena. It was a EuroLeague game so I knew it would be a crazy atmosphere.”Yellow-and-blue bench boss Oded Katash was certainly happy to have Adams available for his team and knows that he played a part in the comeback win while foreshadowing a rosy future for his new guard.

“It’s the most I saw of him as he just arrived two days ago,” Katash said jokingly. “He knows how to play basketball and I was very impressed by his ability to score very quickly. He gets it and understands what is needed and what is expected. He had some excellent minutes in the first half that kept us in the game. When he arrived here, he hadn’t trained in a standard team system and was tired but I’m sure that with time and if he continues on this track, he will be able to help us a lot.”

Maccabi captain John DiBartolomeo also discussed what he saw from Adams in his debut.

“I think he did well. He demonstrated some selfishness and wanted to be involved. He is a scorer and we told Jalen to go get a bucket… he’s good for our team.”

After playing against DiBartolomeo as well as other Israelis last season including now teammate Roman Sorkin, Adams is happy to have them on his side.

“It definitely feels good being on a team with Sorkin and DiBartolomeo and to be on the winning side with them. They are great players and they showed that. Definitely great to have them as teammates.”

Adams knows what his mission is with Maccabi Tel Aviv – to win. But in order to do that, he knows the team is still in the very early process of finding out exactly who it is and where it will be able to go as the season unfolds.

“We need to keep proving ourselves and find our identity and just compete. We want to take it to the top and win as many games as we can.”