Israel has high hopes en route to EuroBasket

Hoops: Israel coach Arik Shivek was in a confident mood ahead of his team’s flight to Lithuania.

Basketball 311 (photo credit: FIBA EUROPE)
Basketball 311
(photo credit: FIBA EUROPE)
Israel coach Arik Shivek was in a confident mood ahead of his team’s flight to Lithuania on Monday morning as it enters the final stretch of its preparations for the European Championships, which get underway on Wednesday.
The national team faces Germany in its Group B opener in Siauliai on Wednesday night and Shivek feels his side is as ready as it will ever be for the tough challenges ahead.
“We have had some ups and downs in our preparations, but we have come through that and we have played much better in recent weeks,” said Shivek, who was surely boosted by his team’s 89-79 win over the strong Russians in its final warm-up game before the championships last week.
“We have gelled into a united and fighting team which has a lot of motivation to achieve success. We are aware of our weaknesses, but our togetherness makes up for a lot of things.”
Israel flew out to Lithuania without its star player Omri Casspi, who is missing through injury, but guard Tal Burstein is optimistic that the roster has enough quality to succeed even without the Cleveland Cavaliers forward.
“Omri is an important player for the team, but we have come to terms with his absence and we still have high expectations from ourselves,” Burstein said.
“We are determined to do well and the win against Russia gave us confidence that we can compete against the top teams. We are always underdogs, but that is how we like it. We might not have big stars, but we have talent and brains and we believe in ourselves.”
A day after playing NBA finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki and Germany, Israel will face France before coming up against Serbia on Friday.
After a day of rest, the blueand- white plays Latvia and wraps up its group games against Italy next Monday.
Only the top three teams in the group will advance to the last 12.