Speedy Smith has already become a fan favorite of Hapoel Jerusalem, but that was not always the story. Smith was the second foreigner to sign in Jerusalem in the summer, and the name was not particularly flashy and not a few eyebrows were raised in the summer when he landed in the capital.
Despite the less than stellar record, on paper Smith arrived in Jerusalem after his career-high season, during which he won the Lithuanian championship with Ritas Vilnius. However, the center didn’t exactly start the season the way he ended the previous one. It was difficult for Smith to adapt to Hapoel Jerusalem and in the first games he did not look good, while at the same time many of the fans in Jerusalem called for his replacement and the pressure only increased because of the bad results.
In practice, Hapoel Jerusalem did not start the season well. It wasn’t just about the coordinator, but following her successes in recent years precisely in this position, the pressure increased and Smith was even very close to leaving. The pressure cooker only bubbled more and more as Jerusalem started the season with 7 losses in their first 13 games.
However, the team from the capital improved as time went on, with Smith playing a large part in the business that was taking shape. The center back became the ace of Aleksandar Džikić and was loved by the crowd who called him to leave only a short time before. Since then, it seems that Po’el Jerusalem does not stop. The team has so far played 45 games in all formats, winning 35 against 18 different opponents, with none of them being able to defeat them more than once.
“It took us a while to connect. We are a team built from scratch,” he said at the time Aleksandar Dzikic“I’m still not satisfied with all the things that are happening around but slowly the players understand each other and me more. This group likes to be together and that’s what makes the difference. Speedy Smith is the classic case. He didn’t start the season well, maybe because of me, maybe because of the friends his to the team, but he continued to work hard and he is seeing results. He, too, still has a lot to strive for and improve.”
One of the things that made the Jerusalem fans connect even more with their coordinator were his colorful interviews. More than once Smith has provided headlines that fans “love to hear”. The first time was when he claimed to be the leading point guard in the league – “I’m at least as good as Jacob Brown and Lorenzo Brown”, and later in the season he spoke from his heart about everything that happened in Athens. “I fucking don’t understand what it was,” he said, “it wasn’t basketball and we’ll get our sporting revenge.” In doing so, he became one of the most enjoyable interviewees this group has to offer.--
“I don’t get the respect I deserve,” he declared after the cup final. “When I take a double at the end of the season, people will start to appreciate me. People think I’m not up to par and don’t fit, they think I was lucky. I’ll prove it.”
The coordinator, whose friends in the locker room testify to a funny and loud personality that makes people happy at every opportunity. In general, a cohesive dressing room seems to be the secret for Smith as well: “Our togetherness is the secret. We all want to prove ourselves and we are very hungry to succeed. We are a family and a cohesive group that only wants the best for each other. I feel like the leader of this group, but together with many others – this is what sets us apart – one for the other.’
But not only he is interviewed but also his friends and they enjoy pouring compliments on their leader. “We trust Speedy one hundred percent,” said Oz Blazer, “he is our leader and the ultimate man. Everyone knows how to trust him and we all do it with our eyes closed.’
At the same time, Or Cornelius also referred to the owner of the house and said: “I learn a lot from Spidi. It’s fun to play together and learn from someone who has been through a lot. He is a smart player and always knows where to be. We have a special relationship, he knows a lot of basketball and passes it on.’
Now, after the lame start to the season and the team’s tremendous turnaround under his leadership, Smith is within touching distance of realizing a dream that few believed would be achieved. The agile coordinator knows that now, on the big stage in the Final Four of the Champions League, he can do something huge and etch his name in the history books of Hapoel Jerusalem.