(photo credit: REUTERS)
After opening its warm-up games for EuroBasket 2017 with a win over Romania on Friday night, the Israel national team welcomes Omri Casspi into the fold for Sunday’s second encounter with the Romanians.
Due to NBA rules regarding the amount of days players can take part in national team activity, Israel captain and Golden State Warriors forward Casspi had to sit out Friday’s game. The blue-and-white, which was also missing forward Lior Eliyahu who remained in Israel, nevertheless managed to register an 83-73 victory on the road after controlling the contest.
Yogev Ohayon and Bar Timor scored 11 points each, with Guy Pnini adding 10 points and nine assists.
“We decided to start our preparations early because we want our players to find their form as soon as possible and begin to gel as a team,” said Israel coach Erez Edelstein. “We had a good first week of training. The guys really want to win.”
The national team will play 10 warm-up games in total ahead of the start of the European Championships, which will be held in Israel for the first time.
The blue-and-white will face Italy, Lithuania, Germany, Georgia and Ukraine in Group B of EuroBasket 2017, with all the group games to take place at Yad Eliyahu Arena in Tel Aviv between August 31 and September 6.
Israel faces Italy in its opener on August 31 before playing Lithuania on September 2 and Germany the following day. After a one-day break, the blue-and-white faces Georgia and Ukraine on consecutive days to wrap up its group games.
Israel will be playing in the European Championships for a 13th consecutive occasion, a streak stretching back to 1993. The blue-and-white is hoping to progress to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2003.
The top four teams from each of the four groups advance to the knockout rounds which will be played in Istanbul, Turkey between September 9 and 17.
Edelstein’s roster, which will have to be whittled down to 12 players ahead of the start of the championships, includes familiar names of the likes of Casspi, Gal Mekel and Eliyahu, as well as rising stars Oz Blayzer and Shawn Dawson, and center Richard Howell, who will give the blue-and-white a stronger presence under the baskets after receiving Israeli citizenship in April due to his marriage the previous summer.
Two players who seem all but certain to be cut from the initial roster ahead of the championships are Karam Mashour and Jake Cohen, who aren’t in Romania.
“It is fun to play and practice and it is time to compete against other national teams,” said Casspi ahead of Sunday’s game. “This is why we are training. The first game was okay, especially for a first game. I’m still not in top shape, but I’m feeling good and I’ll slowly find my rhythm.”
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