Basketball / Jerusalem Ready for Turkey Test / Ohayon Revival Has Hapoel Thinking Big

Hapoel Jerusalem guard Yogev Ohayon's strong play has his club poised to advance to the Eurocup tournament quarterfinals, which it can do with a win tonight on the road against Turkey's Galatasaray.

Last summer, when management begged head coach Guy Goodes to sign a foreigner to play guard, he resisted. "I want Yogev Ohayon," the coach said. "The 'Russian' law requires that I have two guards, and Yogev complements Yuval Neimi. Ohayon is better than him on defense, but is not as good a shooter." Goodes was referring to the law mandating that a basketball team have two native players on the court at any given moment.

Goodes was so intent on signing Ohayon that he consulted with the player's coach last year at Ironi Nahariya, Yaakov Gino, to glean more information. But at the start of this season, it seemed that this did not do any good, despite the signing.

Jerusalem became Neimi's team, and the 23-year-old Ohayon, who was bothered by an ankle injury, simply disappeared on the court. His historically poor shooting did not improve and he failed to win Goodes' trust, prompting the coach to give him limited minutes. To Ohayon's credit, instead of complaining, he worked on improving his athleticism and his outside jumpshot.

"I have a lot of motivation," Ohayon said. "I showed up to work before practice and stayed after practice with [teammate] Ben Lazar so that I could improve and get back into the rotation." Ohayon is also continuing his rigorous training regimen with strength coach Hanoch Mintz.

The extra hours have paid off. Though Jerusalem is floundering in the Super League, it has tasted success in Europe thanks to Ohayon. The guard was especially active on defense and particularly proficient offensively in Hapoel's victories over Galatasaray (18 points and eight assists) and Rubin Kazan (19 points and four assists).

Gino gushes over Ohayon, whom he calls "an asset to any team, both as a player and as a person." That asset will certainly be handy tonight against Galatasaray.