Emmi Rinat leads Israel National Team to historic finish while pursuing college career in the States

Sep 12, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Exiting the gym after the game concluded with her head held high, Emmi Rinat was beaming with joy. She had just helped lead Israel’s U20 national basketball team to their best finish ever in the European Championships, with a commanding seventh place victory, and she knew how much the team’s performance meant to their country. Reflecting on her path to the historic win, Rinat thought about how important and impactful each step along the way had been.

Rinat grew up in central Israel where she played many sports with her cousins at an early age. After trying out different ones together, she found a passion for basketball through a class in school, and eventually joined club teams near her house. Most notably, Rinat played for the well-known club Elitzur Holon, which was one of her biggest dreams at the time. As she continued to move up in the ranks, she began representing Israel on its national team at the young age of 14, and has played for the team every year since.

Emma Rinat – Photo Credit: FIBA

During her U16 European Championships, where she was named one of the five All-Stars of the entire tournament, the assistant coach at University of Rhode Island (URI) reached out to the six-foot guard and recruited her to play in the United States “I’ve created a really good relationship with him and I really liked the people at URI so I decided to go there,” she said.

At URI, Rinat was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week during her first week with the team in 2021, averaging 8.7 points per game, shooting 61.5 percent from beyond the arc, and hitting a team-best 17 points in the team’s home opener. She continued to be a powerful force for the team all season, with her ability to command the paint both on offense and defense, making her a very important addition to the URI team. She immediately stood out to both players and coaches, and was able to quickly solidify her spot on the roster. Rinat finished the season with a start in every game and ranked 3rd on the team for three-point field goals. Entering her second season with URI, Rinat also played in every game of the season, and continued to consistently rank high in many of the top team stats.

At URI, Rinat was also able to find places to explore her Jewish identity, even though she was far from home. She enjoys celebrating holidays with her family when she’s not at school, but found a home-like environment at the school’s on-campus Hillel. “I also met an Israeli family in Rhode Island that I went to eat dinner with a few times. It was nice to spend time and hangout with Israelis while away from home,” Rinat said. She feels grateful to have found a supportive community at URI where she could focus on her basketball career while also taking pride in her identity as Jewish and Israeli.

Emma Rinat – Photo Credit: FIBA

While Rinat really enjoyed her experience at URI, after two years she decided to transfer to the University of Toledo for her junior year, where she will begin playing this fall. When asked why she decided to transfer, Rinat mentioned her excitement for a new opportunity and ability to contribute in a new place.

Meanwhile, she trained with the Israel’s senior national team all summer as they competed in the FIBA U20 Women’s European Championship and had their best finish ever. She has had a lot of experience with the national team previously, but described this tournament as a dream come true. “It was my first time playing in Division A, which is something I wanted to do for a really long time, so it was such an amazing experience,” Rinat said. Team Israel began the tournament by finishing second in Group A during the group stage with a record of 2-1 and three very tight games.

They moved on to bracket play, with their first game in the round of 16 resulting in a win over Finland. Rinat and Team Israel lost a hard-fought battle to Spain in the quarterfinals, but finished the tournament in seventh place after defeating Turkey in dominant fashion, 81-57. “We won a lot of games that no one except us thought could happen,” Rinat recalls. “It was an amazing feeling. At the end. We knew we could do better, but I’m really proud of our team.”

Emma Rinat – Photo Credit: FIBA

Rinat was a key player the entire tournament, averaging 11 points and 2.3 assists per game, while playing the third-most minutes of anyone on the team. She was once again pivotal in both their offensive production and defensive stops; Rinat held the ninth position out of every player in the tournament for steals with 16 and ranked 25th in total points with 77.

A bright future lies ahead for Rinat. She will continue to play pivotal roles for her new college, as well as Israel’s senior national team, as they both prepare for new challenges and successes in the coming year.

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