Blue-and-white moves up gear in EuroBasket preparations
By ALLON SINAI
Despite the absence of the injured Yotam Halperin and Yogev Ohayon, Israel's coach Erez Edelstein is confident the blue-and- white can achieve its goals in September’s EruoBasket tournament.Captain Halperin and forward Pnini, who were both starters in last summer’s qualifying campaign, were ruled out last week. Halperin, who helped Hapoel Jerusalem to an historic BSI championship last season, was diagnosed with a back injury, while Pnini has yet to fully recover from the surgery he underwent on his Achilles last November.There were two other players who missed Tuesday’s training session. Yogev Ohayon is out through illness, while Omri c asspi will only be able to join the rest of the players on court at the start of August due to NBA related insurance issues.“We have worked very hard behind the scenes and i believe that we will have a good team, which will be vibrant, passionate and committed to playing a brand of basketball suited for Israeli players,” said Edelstein.The coach named his preliminary 16-man roster for the upcoming European championships on Sunday, with the injured Halperin and Pnini the only notable absentees.Youngsters Rafi Menco and Oz Blayzer were called up in their place, with Edelstein’s roster also including guards Ohayon, Afik Nissim, Gal Mekel, Raviv Limonad, Dagan Yavzuri and Bar Timor. Forwards Lior Eliyahu, Elishay Kadir and Shawn Dow - son will have to lend a helping hand to Casspi, while the nationalized D’or Fischer, who recently joined Hapoel Jerusalem, is set to be the team’s starting center once more. Robert Rothbart, Yaniv Green and Alex Chubrevich will be the team’s other big men.“We have young blood in the team and they will help replace some of the Veterans,” said Eliyahu. “This will be my fifth Euro Basket tournament and i hope that we can do better than the past few years.”Israel will play in Group a in September’s European Championships, being drawn with host and defending champion France, as well as Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland and Finland.The blue-and-white is aiming to advance past the first round for the first time since 2007.The top four teams in the group will progress to the knockout rounds. The tournament will take place between September 5-20 and will be hosted by four countries (France, Germany, Latvia, Croatia).Israel’s group will be played in Montpellier (France), with the Final Phase set to take place in Lille (France).