Basketball: Lior Eliyahu leaves NBA for now

21-year-old forward joins national team ahead of the EuroBasket 2007 last-chance tournament.

lior eliyahu 88 (photo credit: )
lior eliyahu 88
(photo credit: )
Lior Eliyahu returned to Israel Monday morning after spending the last three weeks in the US training with the Houston Rockets coaching staff and playing with the team in the NBA summer league. The 21-year-old forward joined the national team on Monday evening, ahead of the EuroBasket 2007 last-chance tournament. Israel coach Tzvika Sherf allowed Eliyahu to miss the team's first week of preparations for the crucial tournament. Sherf, however, insisted that the Maccabi Tel Aviv forward return home before the conclusion of the summer league to begin training with the blue-and-white. Eliyahu had initially hoped to remain with the Rockets until the final summer league game on Sunday night against the New Orleans Hornets, but instead had to fly back earlier Sunday to report for Israel training at Hadar Yosef. "I don't know if I'm ready for the NBA and if the Rockets are interested in signing me," Eliyahu said Monday. "My agent will have to speak to them. As things stand, it looks like I'll be staying at Maccabi. "I trained with the very best," he added. "My first training session was with Yao Ming and that was very exciting. I had a tough time with practice in the first few days and barely managed to end the sessions." Eliyahu, who was selected 44th in the 2006 NBA draft, averaged 4.8 points and 1.8 rebounds in 12 minutes of play in the summer league. His best game of the league was his first, in which he scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in 17 minutes of playing time. In the three following games he only scored a combined 9 points in 31 minutes. "I could have done better in the games, especially when considering I only played 10 minutes in each of the last two games," Eliyahu said. "But the first game showed that I can play at this level. "The coach told me that it's a pity I won't be able to take part in the final game of the league," he said. "The coaching staff didn't even know I was leaving early. I was extremely excited during each of the games, but managed to relax after a few minutes and played my regular game."