Israel itching to get EuroBasket underway

Blue-and-white arrives in Ljubljana ahead of tournament opener vs Great Britain.

Elishay Kadir 370 (photo credit: IBA/courtesy)
Elishay Kadir 370
(photo credit: IBA/courtesy)
With the start of the European Championships less than 48 hours away, the Israel national team arrived in Slovenia on Monday evening confident of its chances of success despite an erratic build up to the tournament.
The blue-and-white faces Great Britain in Ljubljana on Wednesday afternoon in the first of its six Group A games knowing a winning start could be crucial to its hopes of finishing among the top three in the group and advancing to the second round.
Following its game against Great Britain, Israel will play Ukraine (September 5) and France (September 6) before having a one-day break ahead of its final group contests against Belgium (September 8) and Germany (September 9).
Israel hasn’t progressed past the first group stage since EuroBasket 2003 and has failed to win a meaningful encounter in the past two championships.
Arik Shivek’s side has also won just three of its eight warm-up games and traveled to Slovenia without Dallas Mavericks guard Gal Mekel and with starting center Alex Tyus struggling with injury.
Nevertheless, coach Shivek believes his roster is ready for the tournament and is optimistic the team can make some noise in Slovenia.
“I told the players that I hope they are starting to feel the butterflies that I felt yesterday,” Shivek said on Monday. “It is fun to be a part of this and we are proud to be a part of this. We hope we can make Rosh Hashana even happier.”
Israel’s traditional problems under the basket were exacerbated in recent weeks following Tyus’s groin injury, but Shivek is still pleased with the condition of his roster ahead of the championships.
“You always have to take into account where we were when we began our preparations compared to where we are right now,” explained Shivek, who will be guiding Israel in the EuroBasket for a second time. “We overcame the problems we had quite smoothly and we have worked hard to correct everything else over recent days.
All in all, I think we are ready for the European Championships.”
Injured guard Yuval Naimi and rarely used big-man Alex Chubrevich were the last two players cut from the roster on Saturday.
The final roster includes: Yotam Halperin, Yogev Ohayon, Afik Nissim, Raviv Limonad, Nitzan Hanochi, Guy Pnini, Lior Eliyahu, Omri Casspi, Elishay Kadir, Ido Kozikaro, Yaniv Green and Alex Tyus.
“It had been reported that there is unrest in the roster, but everyone is smiling and feeling good ahead of the tournament,” said Shivek. “We have plenty of experienced players here, but everyone is getting excited now that the real thing has arrived.”
Tyus will be playing for Israel in the EuroBasket for the first time. The center made his debut for the blue-and-white in last summer’s qualifying campaign after receiving Israeli citizenship and is hoping to make a significant contribution in Slovenia despite his injury woes.
“I feel good and I respect the coaching staff for taking their time with me,” said Tyus. “Even though I haven’t played much recently, I will give my all to help the team win. It feels great to know that you are being counted on and I want to repay everyone.”
Forward Kadir is expected to play heavy minutes due to Tyus’s injury and he is raring to go.
“The closer you get to the championships the more committed and excited you get,” said Kadir. “We are really looking forward to the tournament and really enjoy being together. Alex is a very important player for us, but Israel has always found a way to compensate for its lack of big men.”