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It’s More Than Basketball

Israel National Basketball Team at the Western Wall

The Israeli National Basketball Team’s tour of Jerusalem to start training camp
By: Zach Blank

As the team stepped onto the bus to begin training camp with a tour of Jerusalem, you knew that they were here for more than basketball. The Israeli National Basketball Team, led by NBA players Gal Mekel (who was still in the US) and Omri Casspi alongside the captain of Maccabi Haifa, Ido Kozikaro, is playing for the pride of its country. Alex Tyus, a member of the team, said regarding starting training camp by visiting the Western Wall on Tuesday’s tour, “It means alot. Really helps me remember everything outside of basketball.”

The team started off its tour with an early lunch at the Crowne Plaza and then loaded the bus to go to Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall. At the Wall, the feeling of excitement in the air was exceptionally apparent. This was due to it being the first time many of the players had visited the area in extended amounts of time.

Omri Casspi & Guy Pnini at the Jerusalem Streetball Tournament

After an emotional stop at the Western Wall, the team travelled to watch Jerusalem’s annual 3 on 3 Streetball Tournament. There, each member of the team including, Head Coach Arik Shivek, posed with children confined to wheelchairs due to mental or physical disabilities. They also heard from the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat about the national pride the team exudes onto the rest of the country.

This tour succeeded in reminding the players and staff what they are playing for: the State of Israel. Rather than focusing on themselves at individual levels, the team is uniting to represent Israel in the best way it can throughout Eurobasket. Furthermore, in regards to the importance of starting off the season with this tour, Omri Casspi stated, “It was very important. It will help us get ready for our season. Get ready for Eurobasket.”

Omri Casspi at the Western Wall

Omri Casspi at the Western Wall