(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
The Israel national team held its first official training session of the summer on Sunday ahead of next month’s EuroBasket 2015 qualifiers.
The blue-and-white opens its campaign to qualify for the European Championships for a 12th consecutive time when it hosts Montenegro in Rishon Lezion in five weeks in what will be coach Erez Edelstein’s first game at the helm.
Israel also faces Bulgaria and Netherlands in Group B, with all six qualifiers to be played between August 10 and 27.
The seven group winners, as well as the six-best second-place finishers, will advance directly to the tournament in Ukraine.
“I”m really excited and that is no cliché,” said Edelstein. “The national team used to mean everything to the fans and I want it to regain that status.
It is a real privilege to play for Israel and I think the players understand that. Every game will be like a cup final. There is no time to correct mistakes and that makes our task that much more difficult.”
Edelstein elected to call up three nationalized players even though only one will be able to play in any given game.
Alex Tyus, Jake Cohen and D’or Fischer, who is hoping to receive Israeli citizenship over the next few weeks, were all named in the roster, although it remains to be seen if all three will actually play a part in the campaign.
NBA players Omri Casspi and Gal Mekel weren’t part of Sunday’s session in Rishon, but both trained with the national coaching staff for two weeks last month and will return from the US next week to rejoin the rest of the Israel roster.
Lior Eliyahu participated in Sunday’s session as he continues his recovery from a hand injury, while Yogev Ohayon will miss the entire campaign due to health reasons.
The rest of the roster includes guards Moran Rot, Afik Nissim, Yuval Naimi, Raviv Limonad, Nitzan Hanochi, Dagan Yavzuri and Yotam Halperin.
Guy Pnini, Shawn Dowson, Ben Rice, Elishay Kadir and Oz Blazer are the forwards on the squad, with Yaniv Green and Alex Chubrevich to help the nationalized big men under the baskets.
“The national team hasn’t missed the European Championships in 20 years and we want to extend that streak,” said captain Halperin. “We are facing a tough mission and every minute of every game is crucial, but I believe we will get the job done.”