ULEB Cup: Jerusalem needs kick-start in Germany

Jerusalem has lost six of its 10 games in all competitions so far this season.

Hapoel Tel Aviv 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Tel Aviv 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jerusalem will be looking to get past its frustrating start to the season when it visits Alba Berlin in a ULEB Cup game Wednesday night. Jerusalem has lost six of its 10 games in all competitions so far this season, with three of the defeats coming in its four ULEB Cup fixtures. Early elimination from European basketball is now a real prospect for Hapoel, which desperately needs a big win that could change the course of what is shaping up to be a doomed season. As if things weren't bad enough, matters got even worse for Jerusalem earlier this week when its best player to date, Matan Naor, was ruled out for two months after tearing muscles in his shoulder. Naor's injury is a setback coach Dan Shamir would have been happy to do without, especially since he hasn't found a winning formula for his team. "We're not feeling very good these days. This is an unpleasant period and we are very frustrated," Shamir said Tuesday at Ben-Gurion Airport, ahead of his team's flight to Germany. "There's not much we can do about Naor's injury and I just hope that it might turn out to be less serious than earlier feared. Injuries are part of life and he will get over it." Alba has split its first four games in the ULEB Cup and can take an important step towards qualification for the elimination round with a win Wednesday. Alba's leading scorer and playmaker is William Avery, who played for Jerusalem two years ago. He averages 17 points, five rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Avery is joined in the backcourt by Julius Jenkins (13 ppg) and under the baskets by Chris Owens (15 ppg, 9.7 rpg). Alba, which has won 18 of its first 20 games in the German league, is the secondbest rebounding team in the ULEB Cup, and Hapoel's poor inside play will be under a stern test. Hapoel's playmaker, Ed Cota (6.7 ppg, 2.7 apg), has failed to perform consistently, and Meir Tapiro and Timmy Bowers (16.7 ppg) will need to shoulder more responsibility for scoring from the backcourt. "It's a big game for us and we just have to go out there and pick up our play," Bowers said. "We need to play our style of basketball and play with a lot of intensity. We are capable of winning, but we've got to do it on court." On TV: Hapoel Jerusalem vs Alba Berlin (live at 8:30 p.m. on Channel 1).