ULEB hoops: Hap J'lem looks to overcome Malha trauma

Galil Elyon needs win against Antwerp to halt dire start to European and domestic season.

Hap jlem ULEB 224.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hap jlem ULEB 224.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jerusalem will try and break out of its recent slump on Tuesday night, when it faces Russian side Unics Kazan in the ULEB Cup at Malha Arena. Jerusalem has split its first two games in European competition, defeating SIG Strasbourg 74-73 and losing last week to Den Bosch 101-94. The team, which has won only one of its first three BSL games, has desperately struggled in almost every facet of the game this season and has already replaced its playmaker. Will Blalock combined for just two points and three assists in Hapoel's first two ULEB Cup games and was released from the team over the weekend. Point guard Anthony Roberson will take Blalock's place, but will take time to settle in and is not expected to play a major role on Tuesday. "Not long ago I had to introduce a player to our system within a day-and-a-half and I don't like doing this," Jerusalem coach Dan Shamir said of his new signing on Tuesday. "Roberson will start on the bench, but he can play. It will, however, take time for him to start contributing to the team." Kazan lost 78-66 to Strasbourg last week, after defeating Zadar 90-87 in its first ULEB Cup game. The team is 5-3 in the strong Russian league and is placed fifth in the standings. "Kazan is a very good team with 11 players that can score well," Shamir said. "We have a lot of respect for them, but I'm more interested in the way we play. We need to focus on basketball once more, after the difficult week we had." Jerusalem will be playing its first game at Malha since the firecracker explosion in the team's encounter against Hapoel Holon last Sunday that saw security guard Yoav Glitzstein lose two of his fingers. Kazan, which reached the semifinals of the ULEB Cup last season, is led by Frenchman Tariq Kirksay, who plays more minutes than any other player, averaging 14 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Serbian Dusko Savanovic (12 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Romanian Virgil Stanescu (10.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) have also had good starts to the season and will likely play key roles on Tuesday. Jamie Arnold (20 ppg, 5 rpg) and Guy Pnini (18 ppg) have been by far Jerusalem's best players in the ULEB Cup this season, with American swingman Ramel Curry (8 ppg) one of the team's more disappointing players so far. "It's very frustrating. I myself don't understand what's going on," Curry said of his play on Monday. "I don't have any answers right now, but I'm continuing to work hard and I'm sure we'll find a solution." Hapoel Galil Elyon hosts the Antwerp Giants in the ULEB Cup on Tuesday in a game between two teams still searching for their first win of the competition. Both sides are also bottom of their local leagues, with Galil losing all four of its BSL games to date and Antwerp dropping six of its first nine games. Clif Brown (18 ppg) and Mike Campbell (16 ppg) are expected to lead the Galil team once more. But the northerners, who were seconds away from claiming a win against Ironi Nahariya on Sunday, will also need contributions from several other players to return to winning ways. Brandon Gay (21 ppg, 7.5 spg) and Ryan Sears (17.5 ppg, 6 rpg) will be the main threat for Galil, but, regardless of their performances, the hosts are the favorites to finally claim a victory. On TV: Hapoel Jerusalem vs Unics Kazan (live at 8:30 p.m. on Sport 5+), Hapoel Galil Elyon vs Antwerp Giants (7:15 p.m on Sport 5)