Israel’s hopes at September’s EuroBasket tournament suffered a significant blow on Sunday after Gal Mekel notified coach Arik Shivek that he is pulling out of the roster to focus on his preparations for his rookie season in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks.
After impressively guiding Maccabi Haifa to the BSL championship last month, Mekel was handed a three-year deal by the Mavs.
The 25-year-old guard turned heads with his performance in the NBA Summer League, leading the team in minutes, averaging 27.8 over the six games, while registering 9.7 points and 5.0 assists.
He looks set to start the regular season as the main backup to Spaniard Jose Calderon and decided to skip the European Championships so he could have an ideal run-up to his first season with the Mavs.
“This wasn’t an easy decision and I reached it after many discussions with Arik and the national team staff and with the Mavs,” Mekel said. “I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the national team and I’m certain I will have many more beautiful and successful years with the blue-and-white.”
Mekel followed in the footsteps of Omri Casspi, who chose to sit out the 2009 EuroBasket tournament after being selected in the NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings.
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).