The Israel National Team opened training camp for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers and Eurobasket tournament on Monday at the Drive In Arena as head coach Guy Goodes and fourteen players of his squad reconvened after a month off ahead of the competitions. Four players will join the team later on including Israeli sensation Deni Avdija from the Washington Wizards, Tamir Blatt and Yovel Zoosman from Alba Berlin and Maccabi Tel Aviv captain John Dibartolomeo.
Goodes spoke about a number of items including the upcoming games and Deni Avdija’s availability, “First of all, we have more time to prepare and work on different elements which we don’t get the opportunity to do in the shorter windows. When you have only a few days you have to be more focused and here we can really prepare specifically for the end of this month on things from tactics, defense and other things that we couldn’t spend time on during other windows. We also have more exhibition games coming up which we also didn’t have pretty much at all beforehand as we have the game against Auburn, two games against Georgia and then Romania.”
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The Sports Rabbi asked about Deni Avdija’s status for the upcoming game versus Auburn and the Wizards’ forward specific situation due to NBA and FIBA rules, “I am not that familiar with the regulations but I do know that as of August 4th he will be with us and will begin to practice which he has been doing in any case up until now with one of the Washington Wizards coaches. He will begin getting used to our style as we build chemistry and if he plays on the 8th (Auburn) then great, if not then for sure he will be available for the two games in Georgia. Tamir, Yovel and John will all join the team closer to the 8th and we already have 14 players training with us right now so we should all be in top shape by the time we get to the Finland and Sweden games which is a critical window for us. Then right after that we head to the Eurobasket.”
Goodes also spoke about how Avdija will integrate into the national team which he has not been recently a part of, “We will slowly but surely get the players into the swing of things especially with a player like Deni who comes to the team with all of his NBA experience. But all in all this is the Israel National Team and that is above all else. Every player and staff member has to see how we can all together integrate him the way we need to because Deni can help us in many different aspects whether it’s at the 2 or the 3 and we can play with very tall lineups which is something we didn’t do in the previous windows. I recall from my past conversations with Deni is that he wants to be a part of the National Team and it’s great to hear that. It will be interesting to see us train when he is here and this will be a good headache for me.”
The captain of the National Team Gal Mekel also discussed what Avdija’s impact will be on the squad, “Deni will be a very significant addition and will provide a tremendous amount for us. We can’t wait until he arrives. Of course there will need to be a period of time for him to acclimate and the guys know him for many years and some have played with him in the youth teams. It’s clear that he will be dominant but we have also been playing with each other for some time and since Deni is a team player and one who likes to pass the ball he will be able to aid us in many aspects of the game.”
Mekel who is currently a free agent also looked at the upcoming challenge which is a bit different than what the Blue & White had been used to in recent years, “It’s something that we haven’t had in four years and this is going to be fun to be able to spend the summer with the guys. We really enjoy being with one another and not just four days and we’re done like in other windows. It’s not going to be simple and there is a lot of games and practices but we are here with a lot of energy in order to hopefully have a successful summer.”
As for realistic goals in the Eurobasket, Mekel feels that the first step is to get out of the group stage which is taking place in Prague, “We don’t have any easy group and Serbia is right at the top of it above everyone else. The Czech Republic are also favorites as hosts and there are teams like Finland and Poland who are at our level and have been successful in other big tournaments like the World Cup. But we believe in ourselves and we are a talented national team. First off we want to advance and then continue on from there.”