For many of the players participating at the European Championship for U18 Men they know that their families are behind them, literally, in the spectator tribunes. Only one can boast a European basketball legend as his father: Mickey Berkowitz has travelled from Tel Aviv with his wife to watch son Niv suit up in Zaragoza for the Israeli U18s. For his part, Niv has impressed his coach and his father by coming off the bench and contributing with an average of 15 points per game. Prior to this interview he poured in 27 points in an 88-82 win over Greece.
fibaeurope.com met with the proud father and son for their impressions of the European Championship.
That was another great game today for the Israeli team. So how are you both enjoying the tournament so far, from a player and a supporter perspective?
Niv Berkowitz: “This is my first appearance for the national team and I am really very excited to be here playing in the European Championship. The level of all the teams is very high and it’s a real challenge for me to be playing with the best from my age group. I am really enjoying it.”
Mickey Berkowitz: “My wife and I are very happy and proud that Niv made the team and he is playing really well. He is surprising me! He’s doing a great job. He has made the transition to international competition with so much ease – even better and easier than I expected.”
“I agree with Niv that the level of competition here is excellent. There have been some great games and the amount of talent within the 12 teams is incredible. There is no team here which should lose by 30; all are pretty well matched which we have seen from the results. All the players are around the same age and most games have been close. It’s fun.”
Niv, it must be good to know that your family are right here supporting you. You are playing with a lot of confidence – does it help?
NB: “Yeah, I guess. I just come out and play and do my best. I am really happy that they are here though.”
MB: “We really wanted to be here, especially as this is his first international tournament with an Israeli team. Niv’s brother Roye played in the Junior Championship in 2000 in Zadar and we travelled there too. We just want him to know we are backing him all the way.”
Mickey, do you get nervous watching Niv?
“Oh yes!! I get so, so nervous when he is playing. I get really involved in the game, my wife too. We get really into it. You can probably hear us!”
Niv, do you look to your dad for advice?
NB: “Definitely. I mean, he sees everything. And I listen out for his voice on court. I know he’s shouting out tips to me.”
MB: “You can hear me? Most of the time I’m shouting “Don’t foul! Don’t foul!” (laughs). “You know he’s a pretty quick player – quick on his feet but also sometimes quick to foul.” (both laugh again)
Mickey, does Niv remind you of you?
“Yes he does. He works hard and hustles and, as I said, he’s very quick. He also keeps his composure really well and can hit an important shot at the end of the game, same with free-throws. He’s smart too and already knows the game. One of the interesting parts of being here is seeing and and guessing the players who are going to stick around and become good senior players – and I think they are the ones who play smart and read the games well.”
“You know, I see and speak to many veteran players and I feel so happy and lucky that my sons have wanted to follow me into basketball and that they are both doing so well. It makes me very proud.”
So what are your ambitions for the future?
NB: “For here at the Championship we just want to keep on playing hard and winning. I think we kind of surprised a lot of people and we now have a reputation for fighting for every ball and hustling like crazy. To get to the Quarter-Finals will be a great achievement.”
“For me for the future, well, I played up to now with the Maccabi Tel Aviv junior team and this year we participated in the Junior Final Four in Tel Aviv. Right now I have to do my military service for 3 years, I go after this tournament, but after that, who knows?”
MB: “Niv’s brother Roye has just finished his period of military service and is now playing professionally. Maybe Niv will go to college in the States but we have to see. We would have to make sure and find a good school and Niv has to decide what he wants to do.”
Do you feel any pressure being the son of the THE Mickey Berkowitz?
NB: “No not really. I am kind of a cool player, pretty laid back and things like that don’t bother me too much. I just love to play.”
Lastly, which are your favourite teams here?
NB: “I really like the Spanish and Italian teams. Both teams play well as a unit, as a team! They are good fun to watch.”
fibaeurope.com offers its thanks to Mickey and Niv for their warm and friendly cooperation.