Omri Casspi (9) will once again be expected to lead the Israel national team.
(photo credit: ISRAEL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION)
Israel coach Erez Edelstein named his preliminary 16-man roster for September’s EuroBasket tournament on Sunday, with the injured Yotam Halperin and Guy Pnini the only notable absentees.
Captain Halperin and forward Pnini, who were both starters in last summer’s qualifying campaign, were ruled out last week.
Halperin, who helped Hapoel Jerusalem to an historic BSL championship last season, was diagnosed with a back injury, while Pnini has yet to fully recover from the surgery he underwent on his Achilles last November.
“I have been playing for the different national teams since I was 14 and I have never missed a campaign,” said Halperin. “It won’t be easy for me to watch the national team from the sidelines but I have no other choice.”
Rafi Menco was the only surprise call-up on Sunday, with Edelstein’s squad also including guards Yogev Ohayon, Afik Nissim, Gal Mekel, Raviv Limonad, Dagan Yivzuri and Bar Timor.
Omri Casspi will be expected to carry the team yet again, but will need some help from fellow forwards Lior Eliyahu, Elishay Kadir, Oz Blayzer and Shawn Dowson. The nationalized D’or Fischer, who recently joined Hapoel Jerusalem, is set to be the team’s starting center once more, with Robert Rothbart, Yaniv Green and Alex Chubrevich the other big men.
The roster will meet for the first time this summer on Monday and begin its preparations for the European Championships, with the blue-and-white to play eight warm-up games during August.
Israel will face Macedonia twice, as well as Ukraine, in Skopje Macedonia next weekend before hosting World Cup finalist Serbia at Yad Eliyahu arena in Tel Aviv on August 22 and 23. The national team will then travel to Zagreb, Croatia, where it will face the locals, as well as Estonia and Bosnia.
Israel will play in Group A in September’s European Championships, being drawn with host and defending champion France, as well as Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland and Finland.
The blue-and-white is aiming to advance past the first round for the first time since 2007 after winning just three games in total over the past three tournaments.
The top four teams in the group will progress to the knockout rounds.
Israel qualified for EuroBasket 2015 in impressive fashion last year, winning its group for the first time since 2001.
The tournament will take place between September 5-20, also serving as qualification for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The two EuroBasket finalists will book a direct ticket to the Olympics, while the four teams finishing third to sixth will compete in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
For the first time in the event’s 80-year history, the EuroBasket will be hosted by four countries (France, Germany, Latvia, Croatia).
Israel’s group will be played in Montpellier (France).