(photo credit: FIBA EUROPE)
After helping Israel qualify for its 10th straight European Championships, Omri Casspi has his sights set on a far loftier goal – reaching the Olympic Games.
Despite losing 79-69 to Montenegro in Podgorica on Sunday night, the national team advanced to EuroBasket 2011 as one of the two best runners-up, recording a 5-3 record in the tough Group A, which also included Italy, Latvia and Finland.
Arik Shivek’s team may have suffered some humbling defeats to Finland on the road and against Italy at home, but it showed plenty of poise and potential over the last month and will be looking to make some noise in Lithuania next summer.
After finishing the last EuroBasket tournament with a 0-3 record, the
first time the blue-and-white finished the European Championships
without a victory in 25 appearances, Israel has got plenty to prove in
Lithuania, and Casspi believes the team can at least reach the
quarterfinals and give itself a chance to progress to the London
“We are very pleased that we accomplished the target we set ourselves at
the beginning of the campaign,” said Israel’s only NBA player, who led
the team with 16.9 points per game, while also averaging 5.3 rebounds.
“Our next goal is to reach the Olympics. I think it is possible. Even
without the center we so desperately need, I think that with our
fighting spirit and character it is possible.”
Coach Arik Shivek, who was guiding the team in an official campaign for
the first time, was delighted with his side’s overall performance.
“We achieved our goal and we did it in impressive fashion,” said Shivek,
who will not meet with his roster again until next July.
“All the teams had ups and downs, but we qualified and that is the most
important thing. We collected a group of stars and turned them into a