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ISR - Sherf defiant despite troubles

TEL AVIV (EuroBasket 2007) - Israel coach Zvi Sherf is determined to keep his team`s preparations for the EuroBasket 2007 qualifiers on track.

The northern city of Nahariya was supposed to host a training camp for the team but the conflict in the region has resulted in plans being modified and the possible cancellation of three practice games with the Belgium national team.

The Belgians have shown some uncertainty about their proposed visit to Israel, and although Sherf has vowed to do his best to keep the games on, he insists he would be committed to the national team regardless of the current political climate.

"I don't need a special reason to be more obliged to the national team," said Sherf. "I feel obliged to the team and the country at any time, and I hope and believe these are the same feelings my players have.

"We'll do everything possible to host the Belgium team. It's very important for us to have them here as planned."

As if the off-court situation doesn`t provide enough problems for Sherf, he also has on-court concerns.

Tal Burstein's absence from the qualification games due to injury was the first slap in the face for the Israeli team and now another key player is doubtful.

Gur Shelef, the former national team and Maccabi Tel Aviv captain who enjoyed a great season with Belgian side Antwerp last season, is suffering from a leg injury and is unsure when he`ll be back on court.

"Right now the situation is far from being solved. I don't know what will happen with Shelef," said coach Sherf.

In addition, Hapoel Jerusalem forward Matan Naor broke his nose during a scrimmage game in the unofficial practices earlier this week. It is less serious than the injuries to Burstein and Shelef but certainly not good news.

Yotam Halperin, the Israeli sensation that became a key player for the team after Burstein's injury, is also under the spotlight.

Halperin was a second-round draft pick by the Seattle Supersonics - 53rd overall - and is currently playing with the Sonics in the Summer League.

Sherf, who complains he was deceived by Halperin's agent regarding his return date with the national team, is worried the promising guard will not have enough energy for the upcoming campaign.

Halperin hasn`t had any rest following a long season with Olimpija Ljubljana, spending almost every day in draft camps, NBA work-outs and now the Summer League with the Sonics.

One bright light for coach Sherf, however, is the arrival of Maccabi's power forward Jamie Arnold in a team that almost always suffers from lack of size and power in the paint.

The American-born Arnold, who received his Israeli citizenship less than a couple of months ago, told Sherf he's not afraid to arrive in Israel at this moment and will join the team as agreed.

"We cannot ignore the new developments in Israel but dates can't be changed and we must be ready for the tip-off on August 31," said Sherf.

"We will fight for first place in our group, but it's a very, very tough one. We'll need a sold-out Nokia Arena and every basketball fan to push us to help my players achieve that."

Yarone Arbel
PA Sport, Exclusively for FIBA.com