Israel looks to rebuild after EuroBasket debacle

Coach Edelstein and veteran players on their way out ahead of World Cup qualifying.

September 8, 2017 00:03
2 minute read.
Israel looks to rebuild after EuroBasket debacle

Coach Erez Edelstein (center) and captain Omri Casspi (right) will not be involved in Israel’s World Cup 2019 qualifying campaign which gets under way in November, with the former to be told he will not continue after the dejecting EuroBasket campaign and the latter set to be busy playing with the G. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)

The Israel national team faces an uncertain future as it tries to come to terms with its dejecting EuroBasket exit and turn its focus to World Cup 2019 qualification.

After being named as a co-host of the tournament for the first time in December 2015, and on the back of some impressive wins in build-up play this summer, Israel entered the European Championships with high hopes.

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Progress to the knockout rounds was treated almost as a given, with the blueand- white hoping to reach the quarterfinals of the tournament for the first time since 2003.

However, Israel received a painful wakeup call in its opener at Yad Eliyahu Arena in Tel Aviv, suffering a 21-point defeat against an under-strength Italian side in what was the national team’s worst offensive performance in almost 50 years.

A 15-point loss to a strong Lithuania roster two days later came as no surprise, but there was some hope Israel had resurrected its campaign after coming back from a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat Germany. That proved to be Israel’s only win of the tournament, with an overtime loss to Georgia ending Israel’s hopes of finishing among the top four in Group B and advancing to the last 16 in Istanbul. The national team ended the championships with an embarrassing capitulation, losing to Ukraine by 24 points on Wednesday after trailing by as many as 38.

That humiliating loss is set to be coach Erez Edelstein’s final game at the helm, with the Israel Basketball Association not expected to hand him a contract extension after four years in charge.

The coach of the Israel under-20 national team Oded Katash and Edelstein’s assistant Dan Shamir are the early favorites to replace him. The IBA doesn’t have long to make a decision, with Israel already beginning its FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 qualifying campaign in November.

The blue-and-white faces Greece, Great Britain and Estonia in Group H, with the top three to advance to the second round.

In the past, teams qualified for the World Cup via the continental championships.

In the new format, teams will play two rounds of qualifying tournaments to be held over two years in a home-and-away format.

The first round will run until July 2018, with the second round to be played between September 2018 and February 2019. All results from the first qualification round are carried over to the second round, with the top three teams in each group to secure a berth in the World Cup, which will be held in China in the summer of 2019.

Due to the new format of the World Cup, the next EuroBasket won’t be held until 2021, meaning the next coach will likely be given a four-year contract to rebuild the roster.

Veterans the likes of Lior Eliyahu, Yotam Halperin and Guy Pnini may have played for the national team for the last time, and Israel will also have to manage without Omri Casspi for most of the World Cup qualifying campaign as he will be busy playing for the Golden State Warriors in the NBA.

Shawn Dawson, Oz Blayzer and Tamir Blatt, who led the under-20 Israel side to the final of the European Championship earlier this summer, are among the players who will be expected to step up, as the blueand- white enters a new era.

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