Guard Gal Mekel (left) seems certain to be part of Israel’s 12-man roster for EuroBasket 2017..
(photo credit: ALINA-DIANA COJOCARU)
Israel coach Erez Edelstein has almost a month to decide which 12 players will form his roster for EuroBasket 2017. But after just two weeks of training and a short camp in Romania, the blue-and-white squad has already seemingly picked itself.
Edelstein called up 16 players for the team’s first training camp, dropping the injured Raviv Limonad and Rafi Menco, as well as the suspended Itay Segev and youngsters Tomer Ginat and Egor Koulechov.
Three players didn’t travel with the team to Romania where it beat the hosts in two warm-up games on Friday and Sunday.
Forward Lior Eliyahu remained in Israel to get some rest, but the absence of new Maccabi Tel Aviv forwards Karam Mashour and Jake Cohen was far more controversial.
Mashour seemed set to become the first Israeli-Arab to play in an official international game for the blue-and-white after a breakthrough season at Bnei Herzliya. But shortly before the roster first came together for training, he notified the Israel Basketball Association that he is being treated for a shoulder injury and asked to join the team two weeks late. Mashour, who is undergoing his recovery in the US, was requested to return to Israel to be checked by an IBA doctor, but refused to do so, explaining his physicians objected and told him he must continue his rehabilitation in the US.
Cohen had asked prior to the start of training to be released from the squad knowing he is extremely unlikely to be part of the final 12-man roster. Each national team is only allowed to include one recently nationalized player, and barring injury, that position will be occupied by Hapoel Jerusalem center Richard Howell.
The Marietta, Georgia, native will give the blue-and-white a stronger presence under the baskets after receiving Israeli citizenship in April thanks to his marriage the previous summer.
The absence of Mashour and Cohen means Edelstein needs to drop only two more players, and if the two games in Romania are any indication, those two will likely be forward Amit Simhon and center Alex Chubrevich.
Guards Gal Mekel (Gran Canaria), Yogev Ohayon (Hapoel Jerusalem), Bar Timor (Hapoel Jerusalem), Yotam Halperin (Hapoel Jerusalem) and Shawn Dawson (Bnei Herzliya) all look certain to be part of the roster. The forward positions will be filled by Omri Casspi (Golden State Warriors), Guy Pnini (Hapoel Holon), Elishay Kadir (Ironi Ness Ziona), Oz Blayzer (Maccabi Haifa) and Eliyahu (Hapoel Jerusalem). Howell (Hapoel Jerusalem) and Idan Zalmanson (Maccabi Rishon Lezion) will be the team’s centers.
The squad returned from Romania on Monday, but will be back at Ben-Gurion Airport on Friday to fly to St. Petersburg, Russia where it will play two more tuneup games, facing Finland on Saturday and the local national team on Sunday.
“The main goal of our games in Romania was to try and find our rhythm and lift our intensity,” said Edelstein. “I don’t think that we should be peaking after 10 days of training. We will be facing two quality sides next weekend. We put a lot of thought into planning our preparations. I’m pleased with the spirit the players have shown and I can see they understand that we are getting close to the real thing.”
Israel 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.
“In a tournament like this you can’t just count on five players,” noted Edelstein.
“We want to have 11-12 players that will be ready to help the team whenever called upon.”