Hapoel still finding right role for Dovrat

As Jerusalem’s season hits stride, Dzikic still playing with position to best utilize Israeli guard

Noam Dovrat showcased his skills this past summer with Israel at the Under-20 Euros. The young guard is finding his rhythm with Hapoel Jerusalem. (photo credit: YEHUDA HALICKMAN)
Noam Dovrat showcased his skills this past summer with Israel at the Under-20 Euros. The young guard is finding his rhythm with Hapoel Jerusalem.
(photo credit: YEHUDA HALICKMAN)

Hapoel Jerusalem heads to face Bakken Bears in Denmark on Tuesday night as the Reds look to move their Basketball Champions League record to 2-1 and also look to build on their two straight Israel league wins.

One of the big positives that came out of Jerusalem’s 82-68 win over Hapoel Eilat this past Friday was that up-and-coming guard Noam Dovrat had his best game of the season, scoring 11 points while going 2-of-4 from beyond the arc in 23 minutes of play.

Dovrat has not had an easy time this season and has struggled playing the point guard position, however against Eilat head coach Aleksandar Dzikic decided to have the Israeli play side-by-side with Speedy Smith.

These minutes allowed Dovrat the opportunity to play off the ball, and the 20-year-old Israeli looked a million times more confident and much better without having the burden to control the offensive load for Jerusalem, which is not a simple task with the style of offense that Dzikic plays.

With that, Dzikic may be trying to move Dovrat into more of a shooting guard role or the off-guard, which is what Dovrat had played in the Under-20 European Championships when Amit Aharoni controlled the point.

 SPEEDY SMITH is no stranger to Israeli basketball and specifically chose Hapoel Jerusalem in part due to its Serbian coach Aleksandar Dzikic, who was previously an assistant in the NBA. (credit: YEHUDA HALICKMAN) SPEEDY SMITH is no stranger to Israeli basketball and specifically chose Hapoel Jerusalem in part due to its Serbian coach Aleksandar Dzikic, who was previously an assistant in the NBA. (credit: YEHUDA HALICKMAN)

Dzikic on Smith and Dovrat playing together

“I try to keep Noam motivated, he’s a good player, but he’s just young, so everyone needs to be a bit patient with him. We don’t need to overcrowd him, he’s a good player and he has a bright future.”

Aleksandar Dzikic, head coach, Hapoel Jerusalem

When Dzikic was asked about having Smith and Dovrat playing together, he was very enthusiastic.

“Yes, yes, yes, yes. We will try to help him and change his role a little bit. It suits him pretty well and that was the case today.”

Smith also commented on playing alongside Dovrat for the first time this season.

“I try to keep Noam motivated, he’s a good player, but he’s just young, so everyone needs to be a bit patient with him. We don’t need to overcrowd him, he’s a good player and he has a bright future.”

Dzikic said at the post-game press conference that he would be looking to add another Israeli player and that the matchups were a nightmare due to the fact that the league rules say that at least one domestic player needs to be on the court at all times.

Common sense would dictate that this player would be a replacement for Oz Blayzer, who is out with a shoulder injury, which is what Levi Randolph said when asked if Dovrat would get more time.

 “It’s different positions. [Dovrat] is important, everyone is important, he’s our second point guard and will help Speedy out.”

But there was a report that the club was looking to add a point guard, which was denied by the director of communications Roi Cohen.

If Jerusalem does add a point guard, it’s clear that Dovrat will be moved to the 2, which perhaps at this point in his development and for the club would be best for now. Where he will be playing long term is a much bigger question that will have to be examined a lot more in depth as the season moves along.

Before injuring his elbow at the end of the 2020/21 season, it looked like Dovrat was very close to being a top prospect, but since then it’s been a hard road and an uphill battle.

Last season he was going to be counted on to lead Maccabi Rishon Lezion as its captain, but it became very clear, very quickly that the pressure to keep the team from relegation was not going to be the best situation for him and he was sold to Jerusalem.

Under the tutelage of former point guard Yotam Halperin, Dovrat took some strides in his development as a point guard, with some games better than others. But it was never clear if his ultimate destination was to be a true floor general.

If Halperin would have continued as head coach, would Dovrat be having an easier time this early in the season? That is up for debate and no one will really know due to the fact that Halperin moved back upstairs in the organization.

His stats last season won’t knock the socks off anyone as he averaged 5,5 points, two assists and 1.6 rebounds in 22+ minutes. However, at the Under-20 European Championships this past summer, Dovrat was named to the Starting Five players of the tournament while leading Israel to fourth place overall, averaging 17.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.7 steals in 35+ minutes per game. Of course, that was against contemporaries and not older and more experienced players.

What does Dovrat feel about the situation and as to what position is best and or more comfortable for him?

The Rishon Lezion native explained his thoughts just as the Reds boarded their flight to Denmark.

“I feel comfortable at both guard positions, as the point guard and the off guard. When I play either position I feel good, whether it’s the lead ball handler or playing beside Speedy. I feel comfortable at both.”

 While Dovrat will give a politically correct answer, over the course of the next month, the clouds will be lifted and we will see just what his role will be.

In other basketball action, Maccabi Tel Aviv ran defending champion Hapoel Holon out of Yad Eliyahu with a 98-78 conquest.

The yellow-and-blue dominated every facet of the game to keep a perfect record at 3-0 in Israeli league play. Oded Katash’s squad jumped out to an early 26-19 lead after the first quarter thanks to fine play by Rafi Menco and Jarell Martin, while Roman Sorkin, Lorenzo Brown and Josh Nebo bumped the advantage up to 52-40 by halftime.

Joe Ragland tried to keep Guy Goodes’s team in the game, but Nebo and Sorkin kept scoring while Jalen Adams and Wade Baldwin polished off the victory in the final frame to take the 20-point win.

The yellow-and-blue had a superb evening from beyond the arc, going 16/32 for 50%, while out-rebounding Holon 43-24 and dishing out 27 assists to Holon’s 19 in the win.

Adams led the way with 16 points – going 4-of-5 from downtown – Baldwin added 13 points, Sorkin scored 14 points and Nebo chipped in with 12 points in the win. Ragland paced the visitors with 25 points while Erick Green added 19 points in the defeat.

“This was a very good game for us and we were able to keep to our game plan,” Katash explained. “We ran more and controlled the rebounds, but we’re still in a process. We were able to share the ball the way we wanted to and we were also able to allow many other players the chance to get some playing time.”

“The better team beat us today and they had more quality than us,” Goodes said following the game. “We had some poor minutes in defense and when you are at this level you can’t make those mistakes or else you will pay for them, which we did.”

Jake Cohen looked back at the win.

“It was overall a good night for us and we kept getting better. I liked our focus and intensity. They have a lot of talent but we imposed our will after a slow start and ended the game in a positive way.”

Green also spoke about the game.

“It’s pretty simple, they outplayed us, outhustled us and they wanted it more. It’s a lesson for us and that’s where we want to get to. It was a wake-up call for us.”

Elsewhere, Hapoel Haifa needed overtime to knock off Bnei Herzliya 87-85 as Anthony Hickey scored the game-winning layup after having just missed the winner in regulation time, scoring just a split-second too late.

Hickey led the way with 22 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, Jalen Jones added 20 points and Devonte Upson chipped in with 16 points in the victory. Maurice Kemp paced the hosts with 22 points and 14 rebounds and Sandy Cohen added 19 points in the loss.  

Up north, Hapoel Tel Aviv eased by Ironi Kiryat Ata 96-84 as the Reds took a quick lead and never looked back.

J’Covan Brown and Chris Horton paced Danny Franco’s team, which wore special pink jerseys for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Brown led the way with 23 points and nine assists, Horton added 20 points and Xavier Munford checked in with 15 points in the win.

Amin Stevens scored 23 points and eight rebounds, Diante Garrett chipped in with 19 points and Karam Mashour added 13 points in the loss.