After missing the past two European Championships, Omri Casspi will finally make
his EuroBasket debut on Wednesday afternoon.
Israel faces Great Britain
in its Group A opener in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and the blue-and-white’s brightest
star will finally have an opportunity to shine on continental basketball’s
The 25-year-old forward, who joined the Houston Rockets
two months ago after two seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, chose to skip the
2009 tournament after being selected in the NBA draft. He was forced out of the
championships two years ago through injury.
This summer’s tournament
couldn’t come soon enough for Casspi and he is eager to get the championships
underway on the right foot.
“We are very excited ahead of the opener, but
I feel no pressure,” said Casspi on Tuesday. “We will enter every game with the
aim of winning it, including against France, but Wednesday’s first game is
especially important. We will have to be aggressive and play our brand of
basketball which includes a lot of movement.”
Following its game against
Great Britain, Israel will play Ukraine (September 5) and France (September 6)
before having a one-day break ahead of its final group contests against Belgium
(September 8) and Germany (September 9).
The top three in the group will
advance to the second round. Israel hasn’t progressed past the first group stage
since EuroBasket 2003 and has failed to win a meaningful encounter in the past
Arik Shivek’s side has also won just three of its
eight warm-up games and traveled to Slovenia without Dallas Mavericks guard Gal
Mekel and with starting center Alex Tyus struggling with injury.
a very important player, especially against Great Britain, but we will have to
use him sparingly,” said Shivek.
“There are two basic elements to focus
on in this game, defending in transition and defensive rebounding. We have made
all the preparations and we are ready.”
Apart from Tony Parker’s France,
the 2011 runner-up, Israel believes it can compete with every other team in the
However, if the build up to the championships has proven anything
it is that the blue-and-white is also capable of losing to any side, something
everyone on the team is well aware of.
“Clearly we believe we can succeed
in these championships and advance to the second round,” said Guy Pnini, who
will celebrate his 30th birthday on Wednesday.
“In order to progress we
need to beat Great Britain. We are a very experienced side and we will be
Great Britain will have inside information on Israel,
with Maccabi Tel Aviv assistant coach Guy Goodes also holding the assistant’s
position with the Brits.
On paper, Britain has one of the weakest rosters
in the tournament, with Chicago Bulls forward Loul Deng skipping the
Ukraine is guided by former NBA coach Mike Fratello, but
is also a team the blueand- white will be optimistic of beating.
is realistically expecting Israel to get the better of France on Friday, but the
national team will be more than happy to settle for two wins from its first
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