“Every game is critical” Goodes and Israel begins preparations for Poland and Estonia WCQs

The Israel National Team began preparations in earnest ahead of Thursday’s FIBA World Cup qualifier against Poland and Sunday’s away game at Estonia as the Basketball Association held their opening press conference with new head coach Guy Goodes and captain Gal Mekel.

Goodes will have almost a full complement of players at his disposal for the pair of games with some coming from their clubs abroad as well as a number who were released by Maccabi Tel Aviv who will be playing in Euroleague action on Thursday night as well at Alba Berlin.

Jake Cohen – Photo Credit: FIBA

Jake Cohen and Iftach Ziv from Maccabi will be available for both games while Roman Sorkin and John Dibartolomeo also from the Yellow & Blue will travel to Estonia after the club’s continental clash in Germany. Yam Madar is in from Partizan Belgrade, Tomer Ginat arrived from Metropolitans, Captain Gal Mekel returned from Andorra as the balance of the squad play domestically.

Adam Ariel, Itay Segev and Amit Gershon (Hapoel Jerusalem), Rafi Menco and Guy Pnini (Hapoel Holon), Roie Huber (Hapoel Eilat), Golan Gutt (Nes Ziona), Idan Zalmanson (Hapoel Tel Aviv), Gaby Chachashvili and Nimrod Levi( Hapoel Galil Elyon), Noam Dovrat and Netanel Artzi (Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion).

Goodes began the proceedings, “We’re all excited to be here and I’ve gone through a lot in basketball but this is a chance to tackle something new. I’m with a lot of players and people that I am familiar with and we want to start off on the right foot in this first window. I’m thrilled that we will have a full house at the arena. To be a part of the national team is a huge honor as I was also a national team player myself. The fact that Gal Mekel arrived right away after a flight from Andorra following a league game says it all as to how the players feel about being here, they are committed.”

Gal Mekel – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“The national team is something totally different,” Mekel commented. “We have played very well over the past few years and we are excited to play in front of the fans and get the campaign started off well.”

“Every game is critical and we want to make it to the next stage where each game is just very important. First we have to get ready for Poland and then Estonia. We have a chance to do something very big in this qualification tournament for the World Cup and then we have the Eurobasket this coming summer.”

Goodes will attempt to qualify for the World Cup for the fifth time since 1986 and for the third time overall. Last qualification cycle under Oded Katash, Israel performed extremely well and just fell short of their goal. However, this time around the team is more experienced and the expectations are higher.

“There is no question that this is our main goal and a big challenge. We need to advance to the next round from as high a position as possible. Everyone is playing around the world and we need to begin these two games well and then there will be time to prepare ourselves for February’s window.”
יובל זוסמן אלבה ברלין
Two players who will not be taking part in this window are Yovel Zoosman and Tamir Blatt who are national team regulars but weren’t released for either game by Alba Berlin.

“We are missing Tamir and Yovel, but we have to be thankful to Maccabi for allowing players like Cohen and Ziv to come and play for the national team for both games and we can’t take that for granted.”

FIBA and the Euroleague continue to battle over the international windows and therefore some of the best players in Europe aren’t available to play not even to mention the best in the entire world who ply their trade in the NBA. As much as FIBA wants to replicate FIFA there is still a huge gap in allowing players the chance to represent their country.

Guy Goodes – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“This is the format which we have to play with as best as we can,” Goodes said. “Every country brings who they can to play the best as they can. As for our players, the fact that we have Euroleague players from Maccabi Tel Aviv gives us on paper an advantage but we have to translate that advantage on the floor.”

“Most players have been a part of the national team program for some time,” Mekel added. “That will of course help us and we have a lot of players who are playing abroad which is also an advantage. As for myself to have the opportunity to play in front of my friends and family is something that has been missing when I’ve been playing abroad. This has really been the case recently.”

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  1. Steve Pulvers

    Surprised that Spencer Weisz not on team. Excellent player, terrific passer ,great fundamentals. Watched him play for four years. Rarely outplayed by opponents.

    • Joshua Halickman

      He has been on the extended roster but the coach decided not to take him.

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