TIME TO PUT THE EGOS ASIDE
The Israel National Basketball Team had already punched their ticket to the 2022 Eurobasket back in November at the Valencia bubble with wins over Spain and Poland to go along with a 4-0 record. At stake in the Poland bubble was first place in the group along with finishing qualification with a perfect 6-0 record. The Blue & White accomplished 50% of the job they set out to do in Gliwice which was taking the top place in Group A after falling to Spain 78-73 in what was a poorly played game with tons of missed free throws and choppy play throughout the 40 minutes by both teams. However, putting that aside, Coach Oded Katash did a spectacular job during the qualifying campaign a process that began way back when in Crete with a double digit loss to Greece in his first game in charge of the team.
Katash himself has come a long way since then, himself now the head coach of Greek team in Panathinaikos and the one who was able to mold the national team in his vision. And that is why it would be a pity should he not find a way to continue to be in charge of the team. Obviously it will be tough job to do should there be no peace treaty between FIBA and the Euroleague and that would be a darn shame if everyone can’t put their interests aside for the good of the game of basketball. Look at how many players across the continent missed out on European qualifiers. Now that is just a real pity and for no good reason at all. Plain old politics ruining the game as the world watches and sees how the two organizations can’t put their egos aside and check them at the door for the betterment of the game as a while.
Spain’s World Champion Coach Sergio Scariolo, who is an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors knows how well Israel has been able to play and what the secret to success has been, “Israel showed that they played four years together and they have grown from the youth teams with the same coach.”
As for Katash, he spoke about how much pride he has had with the Blue & White, “In October I will finish four years with the team and I am so proud to be the coach. You never know what will happen and we will see. Even if it was my last game, for the next coach there is a great group of guys and very talented.” The door is still a crack open, hopefully somehow Katash can continue ion his role. Never say never, especially in sports.
THE GAME THAT WAS
As for the game itself Katash commented on the fact that there were really two distinct halves, “It was a game of two different halves like the last time we played. Defensively we executed the game plan well but we could have done a better job boxing out to cut their cheap points. We had too many turnovers and they scored from them. The second half we played much better and I am proud of the players. If I look at the big picture it was a really honor for me to coach the Israel national team and we can take a lot of good things for the future.” Adam Ariel also reflected on the game, “Spain are very talented and we tried to slow them down. In the second half we did a better job but at the end they made the plays. During halftime coach said that we didn’t play well and didn’t execute our system. But all in all it was an amazing qualification for us and I proud to be part of this team. The future is bright.”
Finally, Tomer Ginat looked back on the match that was from his viewpoint, “We came to win the game. The first half we did not play fast enough, but in the second half we came out more aggressive. At the end of the day the offensive rebound killed us and we couldn’t finish the job. We have a very good team and we love to play together to be with each other and everybody saw it on the court. We finished in forts place and that’s very good for us. Now we have time to prepare for the Eurobasket and for World Cup qualification.”
JAKE COHEN, IFTACH ZIV, NOAM DOVRAT
As for individual performances over the campaign there were a number that really stood out. Firstly, Jake Cohen was a rock since 2017. The Davidson product brings his professionalism game in and game out to the team and has been the absolute leader of the crew. Cohen lays it all out on the line for what is his adopted country and wears the Israeli flag with a tremendous amount of pride. He loves playing for Coach Katash and vice versa, “Jake is a leader and I enjoy coaching him so much, he is great for basketball. He usually plays 35 minutes today only 27 minutes but he gives everything and he’s so hard on himself if he misses layups. We missed one big guy this window and we were forced to play with a small lineup. Jake had to fight with the big guys and he is just great for us.”
The next player who has shown huge strides is Iftach Ziv who was in the starting lineup against Spain Ziv joined the team over the last four games and his importance to the squad f=grew each and every game. He began with 5 minutes against Spain in the Valencia bubble, moved up to 10 minutes versus Poland also in Spain and then played 20 minutes a game at the Poland bubble sowing the poise and maturity of a veteran. “We came to play against one of the best team’s in Europe and we had a great journey to get here. We wanted to win the game but we gave everything and unfortunately we lost but we qualified from first place so we are very happy.”
Ziv continued, “In Israel, the national team is way bigger than any player and this is our time for us to give back to the country. It’s a pleasure to be a part of the national team and I am happy to play with my friends who have been with together over the last 4 years. To start in the opening 5 was a big chance for me and I hope I gave back.”
Lastly, Noam Dovrat, the 18 year old joined the Senior National Team back at the Valencia bubble and although he didn’t play in November he certainly did in Poland. Seven minutes against Romania got his feet wet for 18 minutes against Spain as he scored 7 points and didn’t look one once out of place. Dovrat has a very bright future and could be on the dockets of NBA scouts ahead of the 2021 Draft should he put his name in or perhaps wait until 2022. Dovrat’s done a great job with Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion and it’s clear that he will be a mainstay for Israeli basketball or a very long time. “He earned it,” said Katash. “He played much more mature than his age and he will have a great future with the national team and basketball. Committed, humble and he will give a lot to the Israel national team.”