Hapoel Jerusalem completed its roster of foreign players recently with the addition of Ricky Paulding, doing a much better job then expected of restocking its lineup after losing Will Solomon, Tunji Awojobi and Kelly McCarty in the off season.
The addition of Paulding, along with Will Avery, Kimani Ffriend and Leon Trillingham as well as the resigning of Doron Sheffer, gives the defending ULEB Cup champs a more than respectable lineup.
The 1.96m. 22-year-old Paulding can play both guard and forward, and will replace McCarty at the small forward spot. Coming to Jerusalem immediately after finishing his college career at the University of Missouri, Paulding was one of the most electrifying performers in the college ranks during the past three seasons. A starter in each of those seasons, the Detroit native averaged over 16 points a game in the last two years.
Paulding attracted so much attention from NBA scouts that at times he was projected to be a top-15 draft pick. Eventually the enthusiasm waned because of a lack of discipline in Paulding's all-around game, and he was selected 54th in the June draft by the world champion Detroit Pistons. Already blessed have a well-stocked lineup, the Pistons urged Paulding to head to Europe to gain further experience.
Paulding's game is in stark contrast to his predecessor's. While McCarty was a cagey, consistent, sharpshooting veteran, Paulding can be both breath-taking and inconsistent, capable of taking over a game but also of disappearing for stretches of time. He has highlight-reel moves to the basket, but needs to improve his outside shot.
Hapoel Jerusalem will be heavily reliant on its excellent backcourt tandem of Avery and Sheffer for offense, and will count on Paulding to provide the scoring punch from their front-line and be their third scoring option. He is an excellent open court player but needs to improve his half court game to be of true benefit to his new team. If Paulding develops a consistent perimeter game to complement his moves to the basket, he'll become an instant match-up nightmare for any Jerusalem opponent.
Parallels can be drawn between Paulding and Jerusalem's experience with Solomon last season. Though Solomon was a much more prolific scorer and a better outside shot, both are explosive performers in need of getting their games under more control. Hapoel went through a turbulent roller coaster process with Solomon. At times Solomon almost ruined the team's hopes, but eventually, under the off-court guidance of Drucker and Sheffer's steadying on-court presence, developed into a more mature, reliable player. Hapoel fans would be more then pleased with a similar outcome with Paulding.
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