After missing the past two European Championships, September’s EuroBasket
tournament couldn’t come soon enough for Omri Casspi.
forward, who joined the Houston Rockets two weeks ago after two seasons with the
Cleveland Cavaliers, chose to skip the 2009 tournament after being selected in
the NBA draft and was forced out of the championships two years ago due to
However, barring another injury, Casspi will finally get a chance
to represent the blue-and-white in a major tournament in September and he is
confident of leading the national team to a successful campaign in
“All our players are top level athletes and aren’t afraid of
any challenge,” said Casspi ahead of the national team’s first training session
of the summer on Tuesday.
“Our main goal is to progress past the first
group stage. It is a realistic goal and we should be able to accomplish
Israel will face France, the runners-up from 2011, as well as
Germany, Great Britain, Belgium and Ukraine in Group A, which will be played in
The top three teams from each group will progress to the
The national team opens its campaign against Great Britain
on September 4, before facing Ukraine (September 5), France (September 6),
Belgium (September 8) and Germany (September 9).
Israel coach Arik Shivek
will not only have Casspi at his disposal in the championships for the first
time this year, but will also have a second NBA player on his roster in Gal
Mekel, who joined the Dallas Mavericks on a three-year deal earlier this
“The fact we will have two NBA players will help the team,” Casspi
said. “We are all very excited ahead of the tournament, especially me, as these
will be my first championships.”
Israel qualified for its 11th straight
EuroBasket tournament last year after finishing second in its group with a
6-4 record. Israel failed to progress past the first round in its last EuroBasket
campaign, finishing Group B in fourth position with a 2-3 record.
national team lost any hope of a top-three finish and a place in the top 12
after losing its first three games in Lithuania to Germany, France and
However, wins against Latvia and Italy ensured that Israel ended
the European Championships on a positive note after losing its first three games
by an average 17.7 points.
Israel hasn’t advanced past the first round in
a EuroBasket tournament since 2003 when it finished in seventh place.
championships increased from 16 teams to 24 ahead of EuroBasket
“This is my fourth campaign as the Israel coach and one of the
things that I’ve done in recent years was to build a core of players around
which the rest of the team will be constructed,” Shivek said. “This roster has
been together for a few years and that is a very big advantage.”
will play a warm-up tournament in Italy between August 6-10 and another event in
Belgium over August 16-20 before facing Georgia at home on August 26 and 28 in
its final tune-up games.
Seven of the 16 players on the roster have yet
to find a team for next season, including Lior Eliyahu and Yotam
“These will be my fifth championships and I’m still excited,”
said Halperin, who is expected to sign with Maccabi Tel Aviv in the coming
“We have been drawn into a group from which we can certainly