Interview with Yotam Halperin

26 July 2004

Israel’s Yotam Halperin is one of the most promising guards in Europe in recent years. Here in Brno he’s enjoying the respect he has learned, going to the line many times and averaging 13 foul shots per game. Yesterday Israel beat Spain 86-77 and despite the fact that Halperin wasn’t at his best from the field, on the free throw line he broke his own record.

You can’t forget that we are not individuals, but a team. I think that is something that always makes the Israeli teams different from other teams.
Yotam Halperin
Halperin went to the line 17 times and was accurate in every single attempt. The vast majority of the shots didn’t even touch the rim and went straight in. But Halperin didn’t only shoot well tonight, he also helped his teammates get into the game. After two weak games from the Israeli inside players, Anton Kazarnovski and Lior Eliyahoo, Halperin took the playmaker position and slowly gave them more and more confidence with great passes and smart play.

With Halperin the Israeli team is dreaming to go far in this tournament, at least as far as the U20 Israeli team from 2000 which lost in the Finals in the last second. But just the way he’s playmaking the game, Halperin doesn’t rush into talking about the future, and asks to take things one step at a time.

"Our coach told us to try to get as much as possible to the foul line, but it wasn’t only me. Limonade and Kazarnovski did the same and this is how we went 49 times to the line, so we completed that mission. But it all starts from defense. In the second half we played great in defense, and stopped the big men of Spain. Everybody deserves the credit, including the coaching staff”.

Unlike the first two games, your big men had a big contribution today and scored 39 points, was that something you planned to do today?

“We spoke about it, and knew that without the big guys we won’t be able to win games against the top teams. Before the game I spoke with Kazarnovski and Eliyahoo, who had a big game today. I told them not to force themselves into the game, but flow with it. I also spoke with Limonade to make sure we will help to get into the game together. One of the targets in this game was to help our inside players get into the game and we had success with that, too.”

Is that something you do a lot, talking with the other players?

“We all speak with each other, but as the captain of the team it’s part of my job. To cheer up the players that are down, to push up and encourage the ones that do well. But you can’t forget that we are not individuals, but a team. I think that is something that always makes the Israeli teams different from other teams.

Four years ago the Israeli Young Men's national team made it to the Final of the European Championship and lost in the last second. This generation seems very talented as well, does that achievement haunt you?

“I have to say that in every interview I gave lately about this championship I was asked about this issue. We are trying to disconnect ourselves from that. We go and think step by step”

In the first minutes of the last quarter Spain made its way back to the game. Did you have a deja-vu from the game against Russia yesterday when you lost a big lead and the game?

“In one of the time-outs we took when Spain came back we told to ourselves that in such tournaments you have to learn from your own mistakes. We got scared against Russia and instead of increasing the margin more and more we slowed down the pace and allowed them to come back. This time we were smarter than that”.

What about the 17/17 from the line. Is that a record for you?

“In the Junior team I once made 17/19 against Germany, but  I’ve never had 17/17. I was aware during the game that I didn’t miss any shots, but what’s important is that I made the crucial shots in the last minutes. In a day when things don’t connect from outside, you need to penetrate more and more, and today I didn’t have good luck from outside. But these things happen. Tomorrow the outside shots will go in, so I’ll penetrate less”.

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