Israel forward Lior Eliyahu..
(photo credit: FRANS NELISSEN)
Despite the national team’s struggles in the lead-up to EuroBasket 2015, Israel coach Erez Edelstein believes the blue-and-white is more than capable of achieving surprise success in the championships, starting with Saturday’s opener against Russia in Montpellier, France.
Israel won just one of eight preparation games, showing little of the promise that saw it claim its qualifying group last summer for the first time since 2001.
The absence of the injured Yotam Halperin and Guy Pnini left Edelstein shorthanded from the start and the team has lacked its characteristic fire so far this summer.
However, Edelstein believes that will all change once the tournament begins.
“This team will bite, scratch and jump on the floor,” said Edelstein. “This is money time. These are not warm-up games when you can afford to experiment.”
Israel will play its five games in the group phase over six days, facing Finland and Bosnia-Herzegovina following the showdown with Russia. After a rest day, the blueand- white will wrap-up its group games with encounters against Poland and France.
The top four teams in the group will advance to the knockout rounds.
Israel is making its 12th consecutive appearance in the European Championships, but is aiming to progress past the first round for the first time since 2007 after winning just three games in total over the past three tournaments.
Omri Casspi and Gal Mekel will be counted upon to lead the team once more, with Lior Eliyahu, D’or Fischer and Yogev Ohayon also set to play crucial roles. Edelstein will be hoping up-and-coming Shawn Dawson, who at 21 is the youngest player on the roster, can continue his encouraging form so far this summer, while 35-year-old center Yaniv Green is set to provide vital experience off the bench. Green can break Doron Jamchi’s national team appearance record (188) should he play in all five of Israel’s group games.
“The momentum and confidence you pick up during a tournament are very important,” said Green. “You have to take one game at a time. The guys are ready for a great championship.”