Israel’s national team began its preparations for this summer’s EuroBasket 2013 qualifiers with a depleted roster on Monday, with Omri Casspi, Lior Eliyahu, Yaniv Green and Yogev Ohayon all missing from the blue-and-white’s opening training session in Rishon Lezion.

Cleveland Cavalier Casspi and NBA hopeful Eliyahu were given permission to team-up with the side later this month due to their participation in the NBA Summer League, while Green and Ohayon were released for personal reasons and are expected to rejoin the team in the coming week.

Nevertheless, coach Arik Shivek was in an upbeat mood on Monday, looking forward to the start of Israel’s campaign to reach the European Championships for an 11th straight time next month.

“It is a great feeling to begin this climb to the championships,” Shivek said. “We have a tough draw with Serbia and Montenegro in our group, but we have an experienced set of players who are very hungry.

“We are beginning our preparations with a depleted roster, but from our experience it is better to get the train rolling and have players jump aboard later on.”

Shivek welcomed the addition of Alex Tyus, who recently received Israeli citizenship and will replace David Blu as the team’s nationalized player.

“Tyus is different from Blu. He helps us in rebounding and blocking, which we previously lacked,” Shivek said. “We will have to work on team moves for a big man which is something we haven’t done in recent years.”

Israel faces perennial powerhouse Serbia, up-and-coming Montenegro as well as the weaker Slovakia, Estonia and Iceland in Group A of EuroBasket 2013 qualification.

The top two teams from the six qualifying groups and the four best third-placed teams will make up the 16 sides who will join Spain, France, Russia, FYR of Macedonia, Lithuania, Greece, Great Britain and the hosts Slovenia in the EuroBasket 2013 Final Round.

The qualifiers will take place between August 15 and September 11.

Following Tal Burstein’s retirement from international basketball, Yotam Halperin will be the team’s new captain.

“I can’t hide my excitement at being handed this role,” said Halperin, who didn’t take part in training on Monday due to a sprained ankle. “I really appreciate this and this gives me even more motivation and responsibility.”

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