Israel's First Summer Without Halperin, Pnini

21 July 2015

Yotam Halperin, Israel
Yotam Halperin can not lead Israel as captain at EuroBasket due to injury

Even seemingly indestructible players who have served their national team uninterruptedly for over a decade can sometimes be forced to stop, Israel were reminded on Monday.

Israel's medical team confirmed that team captain Yotam Halperin and fellow long-serving international forward Guy Pnini have both been ruled out of EuroBasket 2015, due to injury.

The 31-year-old Halperin was diagnosed with a lower back injury during the final stretch of the club season at Hapoel Jerusalem and had to sit out five games, as we was sidelined for close to a month.

In early July, Israel's captain was submitted to an MRI scan which revealed that contrary to what was expected, his situation did not improve at the start of the off-season and it has finally been determined that he needs to follow treatment.

"Anyone who knows me, knows that the Israeli team has a big place in my heart," the shooting guard said.

"I have been representing Israel since the age of 14 and have never missed a campaign.

"It will not be easy for me to watch Israel playing at the EuroBasket from home, but I have no choice.

"I wish our team all the luck in the world and I believe I will wear again the blue-white uniform in the near future.

"I also strongly believe that my friends, Israel's players and coaches, will have a good championship."

Halperin, who has collected 158 international caps, made his debut with the senior national team at EuroBasket 2003 and is therefore missing out on a sixth EuroBasket tournament in a row.

As far as Pnini is concerned, his participation at EuroBasket 2015 had come under strong doubt several months ago, although he was included on the preliminary roster which Israel announced in early June.

The hard-nosed small forward tore his Achilles tendon in November and was of course sidelined for the remainder of the season with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

There was hope until recently that his rehabilitation would conclude in time to join Israel's training camp, but Pnini will finally not be able to add a fifth consecutive EuroBasket appearance to his résumé.

The duo of wingers had combined for 18.5 points, five rebounds and 7.5 assists in last summer's 2nd Qualifying Round to help Israel secure their berth at EuroBasket 2015.

Beyond these figures, Israel will sorely miss their reliable long-range shooting who helped lighten the load on Omri Casspi, as well as Halperin's leadership and Pnini's hard-nosed defence and hassle.

Israel head coach Erez Edelstein will decide until the end of the week whether he will modify his plans and call up reinforcements, as training camp commences on Monday 27 July.

One obvious option is to hand Raviv Limonad an upgraded role, with regards to his previous campaigns with the national team and also give Dagan Yivzori his first ever chance to play at a EuroBasket tournament.

Yivzori is a late bloomer as he made his international debut at the age of 27 and formed part of Israel's team in both the Qualification Round for EuroBasket 2013 and the 2nd Qualification Round for EuroBasket 2015.

Another seasoned shooting guard who has been included in the preliminary roster and is likely to make the final EuroBasket roster is Yuval Naimy.

The 30-year-old missed out on EuroBasket 2013 but had made solid contributions off the bench at both EuroBasket 2009 and EuroBasket 2011 and his experience from those tournaments will be valuable.

There is also a young winger who has been included in the preliminary roster and this summer could prove his chance to make his senior international debut.

Shawn Dawson is coming off a superb season in the Israeli Winner League with Maccabi Rishon, is a capable scorer and could very well convince coach Edelstein that the time has come for him to pull on the Israeli jersey on the big stage, after competing in the U20 European Championships of 2012 and 2013.

There is still plenty of time of course to add players who were not in the early preliminary squad and, if coach Edelstein looks for youngsters beyond Dawson, there is an exciting 21-year-old option.

Rafael Menco is an all-round small forward with several qualities reminiscent of Pnini and enjoyed a great amount of playing time this year on Galil Gilboa in the domestic league.

He has represented Israel at every age level since he was 15 and delivered superb performances last summer to help Israel claim 7th place in the highly-competitive U20 European Championship 2014.

Israel were drawn in Group A at EuroBasket 2015 and will therefore go up against Russia, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland as well as hosts and defending champions France.

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