Israel began its preparations for this summer’s EuroBasket tournament on Wednesday, holding its first training session in Tel Aviv ahead of the start of the European Championships in Lithuania on August 31.

Only two of the preliminary 17-man roster called up by coach Arik Shivek missed Wednesday’s fitness workout, with David Blu being given permission to extend his holiday and join the team on August 8 and Yaniv Green still recovering from injury.

“It is good to be back training with the team and to see all the guys again,” Cleveland Cavalier Omri Casspi said.

“We have been placed in a tough group and we will have to win our games through defense.

“If we play only offense we will not be able to stop Serbia, France, Italy or even Germany.”

Israel will face Germany in its Group B opener on August 31 before playing Latvia the following day. It will then play Serbia on September 2 and France two days later before wrapping up its group games against Italy on September 5.

Only the top three teams in each group will advance to the next stage.

Yotam Halperin, who due to income tax issues is currently looking for a new team in Europe despite agreeing to a three-year deal with Maccabi Tel Aviv last month, is confident Israel can overcome its lack of big men.

“We have always had that problem, but we have also managed to turn that disadvantage into an advantage and we hope to do that once more this summer,” said Halperin.

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