Is this Madar’s Israel National Team? The Blue & White head to Hungary as they ready for Olympic Pre-Qualifying

Jul 27, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

The Israel National Basketball Team will be playing in a couple of exhibition games against Hungary and Iceland this coming weekend as they prepare in earnest for the Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament that is slated to take place in mid-August. The blue-and-white will begin the journey towards the Paris Games as they look to punch their ticket to the prestigious tournament for the first time since 1952.

The Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament will begin on August 12th in Tallinn, Estonia as Israel will play in group with Czechia, North Macedonia and the host nation. Should the blue-and-white finish in the top two after the round robin games, they will then head to Gliwice where they will play in the semifinals of the competition and potentially the final against one of the four teams playing in Poland which includes Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary and the host country. The single remaining team will then head to the Olympic qualifying tournament that takes place next summer just ahead of the Paris Games.

Deni Avdija and Ariel Beit Halachmi – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

However, in order to advance to the Olympics for the first time in over 70 years, head coach Ariel Beit Halachmi will need to do so without his star player in Deni Avdija. The Washington Wizards forward will not be able to participate in the upcoming competition after suffering a hip injury. The NBA club was concerned enough to send a staff member to Israel to check on Avdija’s status and then rule that he would not be able to play in order to ensure that he will be 100% for training camp in the fall.

Without Avdija as well as a number of other regulars including Tamir Blatt and Yovel Zoosman who are recovering from injuries and Rafi Menco who recently got married, Israel will be without significant players with a tremendous amount of experience in international play.

Beit Halachmi will have a roster mixed with some veterans and younger players who have yet to really take a step into the deep waters of international basketball. However, one player plied his trade the past two years in Serbia with Partizan Belgrade and who just recently signed a lucrative deal with Fenerbahce in Turkey is Yam Madar.

Under the tutelage of arguably the greatest European coach Zeljko Obradovic, the 22-year old Madar was named as the Euroleague 2023 Rising Star and will undoubtedly be one of the leaders on Beit Halachmi’s squad in his first campaign since taking over the reins from Guy Goodes.

Yam Madar – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Just ahead of the Israel’s trip abroad to put into practice what they have worked on in the first week of training camp, both Madar and Beit Halachmi spoke about what they are looking to get out of the two exhibition games as well as what the fans can expect in a few short weeks when they take to the court in Tallinn.

Although Madar will be the most prolific player on the squad, one thing is for sure, he doesn’t want to make it his team, “Yam Madar’s National Team? No way. We’re very happy with the guys that are here and they are all talented. They are here for one goal in mind, so do a good job, prepare as best as possible and put in a window of games the right way. We are all here to be a good team.”

“We’re taking it step by step as these are the first exhibition games. We want to check out all of the work that we have put in so far. I believe that we did a good job up until now in our training sessions and now we have to go on the road and play against some other national teams in order to be together and really become one unit.”

Beit Halachmi also spoke about the first week or so of practice and what his expectations are for the two games this weekend, “We worked very, very hard here at training camp and we want to now see what we did in action and that it is what we needed to do. But really at the end of the day the trip to Hungary is so the guys can really get to know one another. I think that we have a good quality squad and the most important thing is that we play hard and play together. The players that are here are good enough and we trust them.”

One of the newcomers Roy Paretzky – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

One of the challenges that the Madar and squad will need to overcome quickly is the fact that there are a number of newcomers along with other players who have not been on center stage with the National Team, “There are many players that are here for the first time as part of the national team and it’s good to go abroad together. I hope that we can do the best job possible, come back with a pair of wins and play solid basketball.”

Beit Halachmi elaborated, “For a portion of the squad this is their first time here with the National Team and some that haven’t had enough chances. There is a young group of guys who have really impressed all of us and I hope that we will see that in the games themselves. I am really looking at this as a squad. Almost all of them have played under me at some point in their career except for a couple and they were very, very young at the time so it’s great to see them today. We have players here that are of the highest level.”

Last summer, Israel played in the Eurobasket tournament which took place in Prague and hopes were high that the team which featured Deni Avdija and many veteran players would advance to the knockout rounds in Berlin. However, after winning their first two games it was all downhill from there with three straight losses, sending the squad back to the Holy Land.

Madar didn’t want to look at this upcoming tournament as a way to make up for the results in Czechia last year, “Making up for the Eurobasket? There are many new faces here and the goal is to play well, what was is in the past. We are focusing on the here and now and we want to play the best basketball that we possibly can and bring some joy to the country. We are going through a difficult time and we will do the best that we can from our side.”

Deni Avdija – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

While Madar has a fantastic relationship with Beit Halachmi after having been together with the Under-20 team that won the 2019 European Championships in Tel Aviv, the guard also knows that this year’s competition won’t be easy, especially without Israel’s only NBA player in Deni Avdija.

“It’s great playing for Ariel Beit Halachmi and I really, really like him and he’s someone that I am very connected to. I am happy that he is the coach and I hope that we can all do what we need to together. It’s too bad that Deni won’t be here with us as I waited and thought we would have some time together. I believe that when he is here with the National Team it’s a huge plus for everyone but he has his own limitations. I am sure that he did everything in his power to be here but now we are focusing on who is here.”

At the end of the day, Beit Halachmi knows full well that win or lose, it’s his ultimate responsibility to put the team in the best chance to succeed and the only way to ensure that is to have them play together.

“The most important part of my role is that we play well, play together and become the best team that we can be. If we play this way I am certain that the results will come. But first and foremost in my eyes is to see a team here that plays and battles together.”

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