Confident Hapoel Jerusalem opens Eurocup campaign in Turkey
Hapoel Jerusalem’s Bracey Wright
(photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
Jerusalem was hoping to play in the Euroleague this season, but had to settle for a place in the Eurocup regular season after losing to Unics Kazan.
After reaching the knockout stages of the Eurocup for the first time in four years last season, Hapoel Jerusalem aims to go at least one step further in 2014/15.Jerusalem was hoping to play in the Euroleague this season, but had to settle for a place in the Eurocup regular season after losing to Unics Kazan in the second round of the qualifiers last month.Hapoel will be in a confident mood when it opens its regular season account at Banvit Bandirma of Turkey on Wednesday after registering an encouraging start to its BSL campaign.Jerusalem won its first two local league games against Maccabi Haifa and Ironi Nahariya by an average 19.5 points per contest. Nevertheless, new Hapoel coach Danny Franco is expecting a tough time in the Eurocup.Hapoel met Banvit in the Last 32 of the competition last season, winning at home and losing on the road. Jerusalem will also face Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius of Lithuania, Krasny Oktyabr Volgograd of Russia, Partizan Belgrade of Serbia and CSU Ploiesti of Romania in Group E. “Most of our players have taken part in European competition before so we should be ready,” said Franco. “The less we complain, the easier it will be for us. We were drawn into a very difficult group. As far as I’m concerned, simply qualifying from this group will be a great achievement.”Jerusalem advanced to the quarterfinals of the Eurocup for the first time since 2010 last season, eventually losing to Nizhny Novgorod of Russia.Hapoel needs to finish among the top four to qualify for the Last 32 and is expected to face some difficult encounters in the regular season.Vilnius and Partizan played in the Euroleague last season, while Banvit and Ploiesti both showed impressive depth and quality when they met Jerusalem in the Eurocup last term.The 2014/15 Eurocup season will have one major change compared to the previous campaign, with the number of teams participating reduced to 36.The Last 32 phase will begin on January 6, with the eight teams that do not progress to the Euroleague Top 16 to enter the Eurocup at that stage.The Last 32 will consist of eight groups of four teams, half of which will advance to the Eighthfinals, which begin on March 3.From that point, the teams will play two-game, single elimination series until the title is decided in the Eurocup Finals on April 24 and 29.“We are facing a very difficult game,” said Jerusalem center Yaniv Green. “However, we have come to Turkey with the goal of claiming a win. A road win could prove to be very important down the road and I hope we can do it.”