The Israel National Basketball Team played in front of their home crowd for the first time and moved their exhibition record to 6-0 after defeating Great Britain 78-69 at the Drive Inn Arena in Tel Aviv. Israel will play another 2 games at home on Friday against Slovenia at Yad Eliyahu while on Sunday night the Blue & White will take on Turkey. The following week Head Coach Erez Edelstein and his squad will head to Poland for a final tuneup tournament before the Eurobasket will begin in Tel Aviv against Italy on August 31st.
Gal Mekel scored 16 points to lead the way for Israel while Idan Zalmanson almost picked up a double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds. Shawn Dawson and Yotam Halperin each chipped in with 9 points a piece as Oz Blayzer who had an off night from the field pulled down 9 boards.
1) Israel had arguably their worst start to a game thus far as the offense and defense couldn’t click at all in the first quarter. Omri Casspi and Lior Eliyahu played together for the first time and it was obvious to the naked eye that both players need to get into sync in order for Israel to make an impact and succeed at Eurobasket. Casspi had a poor game scoring 7 points while going 1/7 from the field, however, he is just at the beginning of his way in making sure he gets into tip top shape for the real deal in a few weeks.
2) Gal Mekel and Shawn Dawson dominated the third quarter and helped Israel take the lead after ending the half down 42-41. Dawson’s energy coupled with Mekel’s quickness was the key to beating the Brits and going ahead by a 66-57 advantage after 30 minutes and both will be clearly counted on when the games begin. Edelstein praised Dawson for his high tempo and his ability to be a game changer while Mekel also spoke about Herzliya’s new stud and how he not only can be a spark plug on offense but has been playing solid defense as well. Dawson to his credit is just taking it as it goes and when asked if he thought he should be a starter he said that he will do whatever is needed to help the team succeed. His new Herzliya coach Miki Gorka saw him after the game outside of the arena and he marveled to me at how well Dawson looked and how excited he is for the end season to begin. Methinks that Dawson will be back to his old self this coming campaign as he has an opportunity to reach the potential we all feel he can reach.
3) Eurobasket rules dictate that only one naturalized citizen may play and in Israel’s case that will be Hapoel Jerusalem center Richard Howell in a position that has always been a problem for the Blue & White to fill. Everyone knows that Howell will be the starter but who was going to be the backup to spell the oft foul troubled big man. The two potentials were Alex Chubrevich and Idan Zalmanson. With the former out with a hand injury that he suffered last week means that Zalmanson will be the number 2 man behind Howell. Has Zalmanson taken the bull by the horns? He definitely has as he scored 10 points all pulled down 9 rebounds against Great Britain dominating the last quarter to salt the game away. You couldn’t ask for more. Click here to make sure to check out The Sports Rabbi Interview with this up and coming star!