“We’re all excited for the tournament” Shachar Doron & the Israel U20 squad ready for the European Championship

The Israel Under-20 Men’s Basketball Team will get back to action when they take to the court for this year’s European Championship taking place in Gdynia, Poland. The competition begins on Saturday and will run for 9 days with each of the 16 team split up into four groups playing three group stage games a piece which will be followed by the knockout contests starting with the Round of 16 going all the way to the finals.

The blue-and-white will be in a group with Czechia, Italy and Germany and expectations are high after last year’s tremendous performance that saw them go all the way to the championship game but came up just short against France. However, this squad is quite different than last year’s version with numerous new players who have moved up from the Under-18 team, but head coach Elad Hasin’s still has plenty of fire power to make some serious noise.

Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Noam Yaacov, who was named to last year’s Team of the Tournament is back to captain Israel after just having signed with Hapoel Tel Aviv. The guard played the last number of season’s in France with ASVEL Villeurbanne and has also featured in the Euroleague.

In addition to the Danish born Yaacov who will no doubt be the unquestioned leader of the group, Shachar Doron will take the next step in his young career as the 19-year old who had a central role with Elitzur Shomron in the Leumit league this past year will be counted on to provide both scoring and creativity for Hasin’s team.

Just ahead of the tourney’s tip off, Doron sat down with The Sports Rabbi to not only look ahead at the upcoming competition but also look back at an intense year that saw him play a number of games for Maccabi Tel Aviv, recuperate from an injury as well as being drafted by the Israel Defense Forces. But to begin with, Doron just like the rest of the delegation spoke about the country’s current war with Hamas and its challenges.

Shachar Doron – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“With everything that is happening in the country right now, the most important thing is to get the hostages back. Our thoughts are with them and as we head to Poland, we will have them with us. We are all excited for the tournament and we can’t wait for it to begin but we also know that this is a privilege that we can compete. We don’t have a goal to finish in first, second or third but we will do the best that we can.”

Doron, who began playing basketball when he was four years old while attending an afterschool program comes from a family of athletes who encouraged him to follow his dreams. “When I was growing up I really liked to watch Derrick Rose and now as I have evolved as a player I enjoy seeing Kostas Sloukas and Nando de Colo play as well as players similar to them.”

From afterschool basketball, Doron moved to Maccabi Tel Aviv’s youth department where he continued to hone his skills and was able to see that he could one day be a pro player, “Maccabi is without question the best in the country and they gave me the tools to improve as a player. When I was at the Euroleague Next Generation Tournament and I competed against players from many countries and I saw there that I could one day be a professional.”

Shachar Doron – Photo Credit: FIBA

Last year, Doron featured for the Israel Under-18 team which finished their European Championship campaign in a very respectable 6th place and was one of the lead ball handlers and scorers for a team with 20 points per game while grabbing 4.1 rebounds and dishing out 4 assist per game.

“The guys really believed in me,” Doron continued. “Head coach Sharon Avrahami gave me the freedom to do what I needed to and my teammates really helped me get to the hoop and believed in me and my abilities. But I also believe in myself and that is why I am able to get to where I am today.”

Last season, Doron played an integral part of Elitzur Shomron’s success in Israel’s second division, but there had been rumors he would play with a first division club or even in Europe. But along with being one of the key players for Shomron he also worked with Maccabi Tel Aviv as well.

Shachar Doron – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“With Shomron I was able to get playing time and also have the opportunity to match up against older and bigger players which was very helpful. There were discussions with Mega in Belgrade but the army made that an issue and Hapoel Jerusalem wasn’t an option because I wanted to play. So at Shomron I was really able to play and improve my game plus Maccabi also gave me so much to help me out as well as I worked with Yotam Halperin. He’s a great guy and really explained things so well. It was incredible to work with him, he was just great.”

However, Doron felt that he could have done more to help the team out, “I’m not happy as I could have done more, the injury I incurred with Maccabi kept me out for 2.5 months and when I came back it was tough mentally and I also didn’t feel 100%. I don’t think I was the best I could have been and I wasn’t able to really show what I could do. Between the injury and army and being drafted near the end of the season it was tough. But I learnt so much and I can show what I can do here at the Under-20 European Championships.”

Along with playing for Shomron last season, Doron also was able to make his first division debut with Maccabi Tel Aviv and played in 3 games when the war against Hamas was raging in the winter and the yellow-and-blue import players did not all return to Israel to play in the domestic league.

Shachar Doron – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“General manager Avi Even called me and said that I may play with Maccabi and it was so exciting when a month or so later I was on the court for the senior team, it was so much fun. Tamir Blatt really helped a lot and Rafi Menco as well as Roman Sorkin were also great. Oded Katash, the head coach was fantastic and while I wasn’t with him too much as it was only 3 games that I was with the team, I was able to learn what I could during that time.”

For next season, Doron still hasn’t signed a contract but Netanya is an option for the guard who doesn’t see himself as either a shooting guard or point guard but somewhere in between as he continues to improve his game.

“I see myself as a player that can play between positions,” Doron acknowledged. “I’m a very creative player that needs spaces and freedom. Maybe I’m more of a combo guard that can play both positrons, like a 1.5. I want to be a scorer at the highest levels but I also know I have to work on some things whether it’s my dribbling and also putting on more muscle and weight.”

Elad Hasin – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

This will be the first time Doron has really worked with Hasin although they crossed paths in the past and he sees it as a great opportunity to learn from one of the league’s top bench bosses who has also been a part of the national team program for many years along with sharing the backcourt with Noam Yaacov.

“He’s very different that many of the coaches that I have worked with in the past but I’m sure things will be great as I will also be playing with Yaacov which will help my game as well.”

As the conversation comes to a close, Doron looked towards the future and spoke glowingly about Deni Avdija being the most famous person that he had ever met and made it clear what his biggest dream is in just 3 letters, “NBA.”

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  1. Anonymous

    I think they played last year against france in the finals

    • Joshua Halickman

      Correct, good catch.


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