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Maccabi Rishon Lezion guard Shawn Dawson.(Photo by: ODED KARNI)
Hap J’lem, Mac Rishon facing a summer of rebuilding
The shock defeat to Maccabi Rishon Lezion in the BSL final last week will result in significant changes at Hapoel Jerusalem this summer.
The shock defeat to Maccabi Rishon Lezion in the BSL final last week will result in significant changes at Hapoel Jerusalem this summer.

Coach Danny Franco’s status for 2016/17 was already in doubt prior to the final, but the dramatic loss to Rishon officially sealed his fate, with Jerusalem to announce his departure in the coming days.

Former Maccabi Tel Aviv and Jerusalem coach Pini Gershon, Hapoel Holon coach Dan Shamir, who has also guided Jerusalem in the past, and Guy Goodes, another former Maccabi and Jerusalem boss, are among the candidates to replace Franco, with Rishon coach Arik Shivek also being mentioned in connection with the post. One of the options being considered is bringing Gershon in as a general manager and a coach to work under him.

Franco may well have been sent packing even had Jerusalem claimed the title after it also suffered an early exit in the State Cup and only barely reached the Eurocup Last 32 in which it lost all six of its games.

The team’s roster will also undergo an overhaul this summer.

The only players who seem certain to continue for another campaign are Israelis Yotam Halperin, Lior Eliyahu, Bar Timor and Rafi Menco.

American guard E.J. Rowland is likely to be back as well, while a decision has yet to be made regarding forward Donta Smith.

Jerusalem knew that regardless of the result in the final it would play in the Eurocup next season. Rishon will have to settle for a place in FIBA’s new Champions League, with its first ever championship not enough to secure it a berth in the Euroleague or Eurocup. Rishon played in continental competition this season for the first time since 2007, reaching the quarterfinals of the FIBA Europe Cup.

Shivek, who only joined Rishon two months ago, is under contract for 2016/17 and is expected to continue despite interest from Jerusalem.

However, the core of the triumphant roster may well move on this summer. Final Four MVP Darryl Monroe seems certain to leave and could be on his way to Maccabi Tel Aviv, while Rishon will have to hand Americans Mark Lyons and Chris Wright a considerable raise to keep them aboard.

Guard Shawn Dawson, who shined in the final with 21 points, will take part in the NBA’s Summer League next month in the hope of becoming the third Israeli to play in the NBA after Omri Casspi and Gal Mekel. The good news for Rishon is that Dawson intends to remain with the team should he fail to realize his NBA dream this summer.

“We believed all season that we could win the championship,” said Dawson.

“Everyone knows that my goal isn’t to join Hapoel Jerusalem or Maccabi Tel Aviv. I hope I’ll be elsewhere next year.”
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