Amar’e Stoudemire first got involved with Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem when he joined the club’s new ownership group in 2013. Last summer, he took his investment to the next level when he penned a two-year deal to play for Jerusalem and moved to the Israeli capital with his entire family. In doing so, Stoudemire joined Bob McAdoo, Tom Chambers and Allen Iverson among the most-accomplished American-born players to come to Europe. So far, the move has been successful for both player and club. While adjusting to the European game, Stoudemire has averaged 11 points on 66.0% two-point shooting while ranking among the 7DAYS EuroCup leaders in rebounds (ninth, 6.4 rpg.) and blocked shots (fourth, 1.3 bpg.). And Jerusalem went 5-3 in Group D to advance to the Top 16 from second place. Before the start of the second stage of the EuroCup campaign, Stoudemire spoke to EuroCupBasketball.com about his season and what the immediate goals in Jerusalem are. “We know every team in the EuroCup competition is very, very good and they are very competitive,” Stoudemire said. “So we have to make sure as a team, for Hapoel Jerusalem, we are focused on becoming better and better each time we step on the court.”
Hello Amar’e. How would you sum up your first three months of European basketball?
“The first few months have been great. It’s been a beautiful experience traveling the world and playing against teams that are well-experienced. The beautiful thing about it is the will and being able to succeed and also playing against different talents. I’m truly having a great time here.”
What things have surprised you about the game in Europe so far?
“It’s very competitive. It’s surprised me. It’s great for me because it allows me to continue to work on my game and continue to work toward improving. So the competitiveness here has surprised me.”
In what ways have you been able to use your experience to adjust quickly to a different brand of basketball and to help make the players around you better?
“My experience in adjusting is just training and working harder and harder and harder and figuring out how to play a different style of basketball. So the more I work, the better I become and my teammates can feed off that type of work ethic. And I’ve been able to work with guys individually and try and develop their game as well.”
Which players would you say have helped you the most in adjusting – both on and off the court – to life and basketball in Jerusalem?
“They all have. Each one of my teammates has spoken to me about the game of basketball here and also in Europe. They’ve given me great advice as far as different plays and rules here. So I think all my teammates have definitely spoken to me in a manner of willing to give me advice to succeed.”
After spending so many years living and playing in New York City, life in Jerusalem is surely much different. What do you like about you and your family’s day-to-day experiences in the Israeli capital?
“I think playing here in the Israeli capital allows us to have a humble experience. We’re taking it one day at a time and we’re truly becoming a closer family because it’s a family-oriented type of city. It’s not like New York City. New York City is very active and there is so much going on. But here we get to spend a lot of time as a family.”
As good a level of basketball as the EuroCup is, the top level in Europe is of course the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Have you had the chance to watch many EuroLeague games and, if so, what are your thoughts on them?
“The EuroLeague teams are competitive as well. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to compete in that league. But I think for us now we’re looking to succeed here in Israel and also in the EuroCup. And hopefully one day we can get into the EuroLeague and really compete.”
Although you must have played for coaches wearing fine Italian suits before, Simone Pianigiani is probably the first Italian coach you have suited up for. How do like playing for Coach Pianigiani and how would you describe your relationship with him?
“Coach Pianigiani definitely wears some nice, Armani maybe, Italian suits, man. He’s very well-dressed. But I think playing for him has definitely been a great experience for me. I truly love his passion for the game. We both share a high passion and a will to succeed and work for and toward excellence. And I love that about him. And our relationship is very intriguing.”
Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem is known throughout Europe for having a passionate fan base. How does their support help you and the team and what is it about the fans that you like the most?
“the fans here are truly remarkable. They are cheering the entire game. I love when the national anthem is being sung, because there are a few mentions of Jerusalem inside the national anthem and the fans are truly enjoying that part of the song. So it really gets me going and gets me motivated for the game.”
After going 5-3 in the EuroCup Regular Season and placing second in Group D, the Top 16 is now just around the corner. What do you know as of now about the three teams you will face in the Top 16: Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius, Nizhny Novgorod and Zenit St Petersburg?
“We know every team in the EuroCup competition is very, very good and they are very competitive. So we have to make sure as a team, for Hapoel Jerusalem, we are focused on becoming better and better each time we step on the court. These teams are willing to win and we have to be able to have the same type of approach.”
Jerusalem has a veteran squad that is built to win now, both in the Israeli League and the EuroCup. From what you’ve seen, what does Jerusalem need to do to challenge to win the EuroCup?
“We just have to be more consistent. We have players and a team that can compete at a high level in any league. So we just have to be able to play at a high level on a consistent basis. And it needs to become a habit for us to be able to succeed at a high level."