Anyone familiar with Yuval Naimi knows the Hapoel Jerusalem point guard is convinced he is destined for greatness. When he didn't get enough playing time during the 2006-07 season at Givat Shmuel, "he made faces," recalls a former teammate. In Ashkelon, where he played last season, he is remembered for trying to pass himself off as being in charge by dictating annoying orders to foreign star Cory Carr. And in Jerusalem, teammates have noted his fierce rivalry with Moran Roth, the team's driving force.
Naimi, 24, grew up in the Jerusalem establishment and is the brother-in-law of Danny Klein, the team's chairman. He is indeed ambitious, but sometimes it seems this characteristic, combined with his supreme self-confidence, may undermine the achievement of his dream of becoming Hapoel Jerusalem's main point guard.
Team officials say Naimi has a tendency to fly solo and be somewhat egotistical on the court. "Sometimes he takes himself too seriously," says Gadi Keidar. "He needs more group discipline and needs to integrate his personal ability with the team. That's why his teamwork with Roth and Timmy Bowers isn't always the best."
Coach Guy Goodes recognizes this problem, too, noting that "team play is the key to our success."
Another weak spot plaguing the player is his inconsistency on offense. "Naimi is the kind of player who can score 15 points in 15 minutes - or not score for an entire game," explains one Jerusalem official. The coaching staff also agrees that he needs to pick up his defense. Aware of this problem, Naimi worked with a personal trainer over the summer to build up body mass. Still, Goodes has been seen more than once during a game to "shift gears on defense."
While Naimi is perhaps scrutinized more in Jerusalem, Hapoel officials were very impressed with him during his stint at Givat Shmuel. Coming in as a role player sitting at the end of the bench, he ended up averaging 13 minutes and 4.9 points per game.
Jerusalem signed him to a four-year deal, but then-coach Dan Shamir felt the boy needed more seasoning. The team loaned him out to Ironi Ashkelon, where he averaged 14.4 points over 27 games.
Jerusalem was not indifferent to his improvement. After the team released Orien Greene in April, Shamir said it was time to bring Naimi back. However, Ashkelon refused to let him go, though eventually Naimi got to rejoin Hapoel.
The one big question hanging over Naimi is whether his self-confidence will interfere with his need to improve in certain areas. In order to become Hapoel's true leading point guard, he will have to prove he is greater than the sum of his parts. His two-point performance last night was not very promising.
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