Yovel Zoosman brings his talents to Hapoel Jerusalem

Busy beginning for Hapoel owner Adelson • Dzikic, Speedy Smith return, Chris Johnson is back

 HAPOEL JERUSALEM new signees Gaby Chachashvili (left) and Yovel Zoosman (right) pose at their introductory press conference yesterday in the Israeli capital. (photo credit: YEHUDA HALICKMAN)
HAPOEL JERUSALEM new signees Gaby Chachashvili (left) and Yovel Zoosman (right) pose at their introductory press conference yesterday in the Israeli capital.
(photo credit: YEHUDA HALICKMAN)

Hapoel Jerusalem made a massive splash in the Israeli basketball market with this signing over the weekend of Yovel Zoosman, arguably the best Sabra on the market.

The club’s new owner, Matan Adelson, had promised that he would be making changes to take the Reds to the next level and so far he’s been right on the mark with the signing of the 25-year-old former Alba Berlin and Maccabi Tel Aviv forward. Zoosman inked a three-year deal with Hapoel Jerusalem as he looks to help the club reach the goals set by its owner which is one day playing in the Euroleague.

Along with Zoosman, Adelson also announced the signing of veteran forward Chris Johnson to a two-year contract. The forward played with Jerusalem back in the 2018/19 season and was the captain of Hapoel Holon just this past year, his third with the Purples. In addition, point guard Speedy Smith will be back with the capital city squad after signing a two-year extension and Gaby Chachashvili was also presented after signing with the team a couple of weeks ago. Also, the club will be outfitted by Nike after bringing the equipment supplier on board.

“Yovel was at the top of our list from day one,” Adelson remarked. “he has consistently displayed the ability to perform at a high level in the local Israeli League as well as the Euroleague. Signing the best young Israeli talent was of utmost importance to me and we firmly believe that Yovel is a perfect addition to our team. His on-court abilities coupled with his remarkable character and demeanor on and off of the court makes him an ideal fit for the organization.”

Zoosman spent four years with Maccabi TA

The Kfar Saba native made his professional debut at the age of 15 with Maccabi Tel Aviv back in 2015 before being loaned to second division Maccabi Ra’anana. In 2017, Zoosman signed a four-year deal with the yellow-and-blue and became an integral part of the club, helping it win three Israeli league titles and an Israel State Cup.

Yovel Zoosman and DeAndre Kane of Maccabi Tel Aviv in a game against Maccabi Rishon Lezion, June 13, 2019 (credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY/COURTESY)
Yovel Zoosman and DeAndre Kane of Maccabi Tel Aviv in a game against Maccabi Rishon Lezion, June 13, 2019 (credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY/COURTESY)

Now Zoosman will be wearing red after trading in the yellow-and-blue of both Alba and Maccabi.

“I’m excited to be here,” said the Israel swingman. “Jerusalem is building something very big here and I’m happy to be a part of it. I want to say to the fans that there is something special going on here and they should come and be a part of what we are doing.”

In 2021, Zoosman made his debut with Alba Berlin in Germany where he would spend a couple of seasons with fellow Israeli Tamir Blatt. Last season, Zoosman put in modest numbers scoring 7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists across all competitions.

“I played in the Euroleague and at the highest of heights in Europe,” Zoosman continued. “I believe that at the end of the day, Jeurusalem will be a part of the Euroleague which is in line with Matan’s vision. The future is a very bright one and in my eyes, Jerusalem will be in the Euroleague very soon. While I will be an integral part of the club and I want to show what I can do, right now it’s less talk and more about doing on the court to make sure that we will be a team that will battle.

“I’m here as one of the main players and as one of the integral Israeli players, but those who will do their best on the court whether it’s the Israeli league or the Champions League will be the ones who will play and that is what I came here to do. I will take the challenge with both hands, I’m hungry and I’ll do the best that I can.”

Zoosman also spoke about what it will be like to play under head coach Aleksandar Dzikic.

“I had a conversation with him and he’s a very special person who you don’t find very often in Israel. He has a combination of the old Yugoslavian way and American understanding so he is very well aware of the psychology as how to relate to people. He is super special and he knows what he wants to get from each player and from the club. He’s a basketball genius and I’m happy to be able to learn from him.”

As Adelson continues to put together the team, he is well aware as to how important a player like Johnson is, one who brings top level defensive prowess and determination.

“When the option to bring Chris back to Hapoel became evident a few weeks ago the decision was a no brainer,” said Adelson. “Having previously played for the team, we got to witness first hand what type of teammate and leader he is. His defensive prowess and proven experience will be invaluable in helping the team accomplish our goals.”

Retaining Smith was also critical for the success of the team under Dzikic, who also recently signed a three-year extension, as it provides continuity to the club that has already brought back center Zach Hankins, guard Khadeen Carrington and forward Levi Randolph, with Israeli Oz Blayzer to go along with newcomer Chachashvili.

“Last year, Speedy exemplified his leadership,” Adelson said. “He showcased his exceptional ability to run the offense and relentless hustle. We are thrilled to have him remain as an integral part of our squad and forge ahead. Maintaining commitment to a proven process and core is paramount and having Speedy on board contributes significantly to that goal.”

Finally Adelson had promised to upgrade the entire club from top to bottom and that also included bringing aboard Nike as the new outfitter as well.

“Nike will serve as our official equipment provider for the upcoming season and we couldn’t be happier to have the famous ‘Swoosh’ on our jerseys and fan merchandise for the upcoming season.”

Adelson promised that there would be even more surprises along the way and so far he’s been good to his word as Jerusalem looks to take that solid base and foundation that was put in place last season and continue to build on that and grow as an organization as management looks to take the team to the next level.

Perhaps, as Zoosman said, the Euroleague is not that far off for Hapoel Jerusalem.