Casspi back in blue and white

NBA player trains with the Israel national team.

Casspi national team 311 (photo credit: AP)
Casspi national team 311
(photo credit: AP)
Omri Casspi joined the Israel national team in training for the first time in two years on Thursday and immediately did his best to try and lower the expectations from his return to the blue-and-white.
Casspi’s impressive rookie season in the NBA has made his comeback to the national team one of the stories of the summer in Israeli sports, but the 22-year-old forward, who missed last year’s EuroBasket campaign to prepare for the draft, was adamant on Thursday that he wants to be just another roster member.
“We will win as a unit and lose as a unit,” Casspi said.
“A single player will not win or lose games on his own. I’m trying to take all the pressure off myself because I have nothing to prove. I’m here to be part of the team and help it achieve its goal of reaching the European Championships.”
Israel begins its EuroBasket qualifying campaign away at Italy on August 2, leaving Casspi with just 10 days to gel with his teammates, who have already been training together for several weeks and have played five warmup games.
“I’m very happy to be joining the national team after what has been a very successful summer for me,” said Casspi, who added an extra 15 pounds of upper-body muscle by participating in Joe Abunassar’s Impact Basketball Camp before playing for the Sacramento Kings in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas last week.
“I was very excited ahead of my first training session with Israel. I’m here to help the team in any way the coaches decide. Of course I hope to be a leading player, but if the coaches decide I need to help the team from the bench I will have no problem doing that. I’ll do whatever I’m told.”
Casspi is expecting it will take him a little time to get used to European basketball once more, but he is confident he will soon find his rhythm with the team and help it realize its potential.
“There’s no doubt the European game is different, but I grew up in Europe and I know the system we use in the national team,” he said.
“We have a very talented team with a good mixture of youth and experience. I believe we can achieve some very nice things together.”
Casspi will not have to wait long to play with his teammates, with Israel facing Belgium in an exhibition game at Hadar Yosef Arena in Tel Aviv on Friday.
The national team will play three more preparation encounters next week, facing Great Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium at Hadar Yosef in a three-day tournament which begins on Monday.
Israel coach Arik Shivek was happy to wait for Casspi, and despite acknowledging on Thursday that the young forward will need a little time to acclimate to his new surroundings, he was confident Casspi will play a key role in the team’s upcoming campaign.
“We are very happy Omri has joined us,” Shivek said.
“Omri is a very diligent and intelligent guy so he will quickly pick up what we have been working on. He will be an important part of our team.”