Hap Jerusalem opens season with State Cup win

Hapoel has gone through a summer facelift; seven new players join team, Edelstein replaces Drucker as head coach.

hapoel jerusalem 88 (photo credit: )
hapoel jerusalem 88
(photo credit: )
Hapoel Jerusalem officially began the Arkadi Gaydamak era with a victory Sunday night in its first official game since the summer takeover by the Russian billionaire. Jerusalem beat the second division's Elitzur Maccabi Netanya 116-91 in the first leg of the first round of the State Cup in Netanya's Yeshuron Arena. The win leaves Hapoel well placed ahead of the second leg on Wednesday night at the Malcha Arena with the aggregate score winner advancing to the second round. Hapoel has gone through a summer facelift, with seven new players joining the team and Erez Edelstein replacing Sharon Drucker as head coach. It may only be the early days of the season, but the changes seem to have revitalized a team that has been struggling ever since its historic ULEB Cup triumph two years ago. Jerusalem was clearly the better team throughout and despite Netanya's best efforts to keep up with the reds, Hapoel jumped ahead early on and won comfortably. Despite its big win, Jerusalem's team play was poor at times. But with the talent in the squad and coach Edelstein on the sidelines, it's surely only a matter of time until the team gels and plays to its full potential. American guard Horace Jenkins began to pay immediate dividends for Jerusalem. Jenkins, who played last year for the Detroit Pistons of the NBA, was the most impressive of Jerusalem's new players, running the reds' offense and scoring at will, eventually finishing with 25. New forward Mario Austin was unstoppable in the paint and was a constant nuisance for Netanya on defense and offense, scoring 21 points in the second half and 36 overall. American Tamar Slay made his first appearance for the team after signing a year contract on Sunday. The contract has a clause specifying that if Slay's injured ankle doesn't fully heal in the next two weeks, then Jerusalem has the right to cut the player. Slay did his best to impress in 19 minutes of play, scoring 15 points. The Gaydamak takeover seems thus far to be going well, but Jerusalem could learn a thing or two about millionaire takeovers from Netanya. In 1989, Netanya was bought by Neil Gilman, who decided to build a team that would rival Maccabi Tel Aviv. Gilman acquired American stars Karl Neverson, Terry Fair and Steve Malovik and also brought in some of Israel's best players. Despite the investment, Netanya came up short twice that season. The team was beaten in the playoff final by Maccabi Tel Aviv and in the State Cup final by Hapoel Galil Elyon. A year later Gilman cut off the money and the team began to fade back into the obscurity it was used to before Gilman's arrival. It wasn't long before Netanya disappeared altogether off the basketball map. No one in Jerusalem is concerned about a premature Gaydamak departure, but Jerusalem could learn a lot from Gilman's Netanya adventure. In the other first-leg, first-round State Cup games on Sunday, it was: Maccabi Petah Tikva 97, Maccabi Rosh Ha'ayin 72; Hapoel Holon 72, Elitzur Ramle 68; Maccabi Ashdod 80, Hapoel Lev Hasharon 74; Hapoel Givatayim 86, Kiryat Ata/Motzkin 78.