ULEB Cup: Expectations rising for Hapoel J'lem

Jerusalem hosts Zadar while Galil Elyon faces KK Buducnost in Montenegro.

hapoel jm 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
hapoel jm 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
After mercilessly crushing Unics Kazan last week, Hapoel Jerusalem hosts Croatian club Zadar in the ULEB Cup on Tuesday night in a game that on paper should end in another comfortable win. Jerusalem coach Dan Shamir will, however, be undoubtedly wary of complacency and will remind his players that up until last week's performance the team was desperately struggling. Hapoel (2-1) suffered a humbling defeat to Den Bosch in the Netherlands in European play two weeks ago and was also outplayed by Bnei Hasharon and Maccabi Tel Aviv in the BSL. Another blowout victory against Zadar (1-2), however, will prove that last week's performance wasn't a one-off and that Jerusalem is capable of consistently overwhelming its opponents. "Our last game in the ULEB Cup was excellent," Shamir said on Monday. "Zadar is a tough team to stop and we must play aggressively. Zadar scored amazingly well from two-point range in its last game, but as all Croatian teams can also shoot from beyond the arc." Dror Hajaj orchestrated the side's play from the backcourt against Kazan and Jamie Arnold dominated under the baskets and was rewarded by being named the ULEB Cup's player of the week. Arnold has carried the team since joining from Maccabi Tel Aviv in the summer, averaging 22.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in continental competition. "I feel very good at the team and I'm able to do things that I haven't done in the past," Arnold said on Monday. "We've been very aggressive lately, but we need to learn how to play for 40 minutes and concentrate on defense. Zadar is a very tough opponent." Zadar has lost two of its three ULEB Cup games to date, defeating Turow Zgorzelec at home, but slipping-up twice on the road. The team is led by American Corey Brewer (18.3 ppg, 3.7 apg) and Macedonian Todor Gecevski (17 ppg, 9 rpg), who are on court longer than any of their teammates and unsurprisingly also contribute appropriately. The supporting cast is made largely of young Croatians, such as Jure Lalic (12.7 ppg, 6 rpg) and Rok Stipcevic (8 ppg, 2.3 apg). Jerusalem will also be keeping a close eye on Zadar's two other Americans Shamell Stallworth (11.3 ppg, 2.3 apg) and Julios Johnson (6.3 ppg). After losing six straight games in all competitions, Hapoel Galil Elyon (1-2) goes in search of its third consecutive victory on Tuesday night. The team, which faces KK Buducnost in Montenegro, recorded its first victory of the season against Antwerp Giants last week and also got off the mark in the BSL on Sunday, defeating Ironi Ashkelon. Clif Brown (18.3 ppg, 4 rpg) almost single handedly ended Galil's losing streak, but will need help from Mike Campbell (17 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.7 apg) and Gili Mosinzon (14.3 ppg, 3 rpg) for his team to have any chance of winning on Tuesday. Buducnost (2-1), which lost its first ULEB Cup game of the season against Russian team Triumph Lyubertsy, has won its last two games in the competition, defeating Antwerp and Benetton Fribourg on the road. The Buducnost roster is made entirely of players from the former Yugoslav republics. Vladislav Dragojlovic (16 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Vladimir Micov (14.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg) lead a balanced team in which 10 players are on court for considerable minutes. Also Tuesday, Ironi Nahariya hosts Latvian side Barons LMT, needing a five point victory to advance to the group stage of the EuroCup. The Israelis suffered a shock 81-77 loss in the first leg in Latvia last week, with Barons' Demetrius Alexander scoring 18 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.