Children Teach Us Something Important on the Basketball Court

I recently went to the Wells Fargo Center to watch some kids play a pickup game of basketball. It was not your typical basketball game, however, but not because the kids were playing on the home court of the Philadelphia 76ers. This was a game involving students from the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr and the Al Aqsa Islamic Academy in Philadelphia. It was also the bar mitzvah project of Ari Abramovitz, a middle-school student at Barrack. [Read more…]

Maccabiah: U.S. Wins Five Basketball Medals

MaccabiUSA: Basketball Open Men's &emdash; BASOMBasketball Open Mens

— by Amir Shoam

The U.S. won five medals — four golds and one silver — in the Maccabiah basketball tournaments last week. The open men’s team won the gold after beating Argentina 87-76. Daniel Robin scored 25 points for the winners, and Philadelphia-born Bryan Cohen added 14. The win marked a great year for Head Coach and Former Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Brad Greenberg, who also won the Israeli championship this year with Maccabi Haifa, and will coach Hapoel Jerusalem in the coming season. “It was an outstanding tournament, and our U.S. open team was really special,” he said to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

It was an honor to coach some of the finest young men I have ever been around: hard working, unselfish, intelligent and emotionally mature. Lasting friendships were formed, and a love for Israel was enhanced. Next year in Jerusalem — for me it’s true!

More after the jump.

MaccabiUSA: Basketball Open Women's &emdash; BASOWBasketball Open Womens

In the open women’s tournament final, the U.S. defeated Israel 72-56. Jacqui Kalin finished with 22 points, including 6 three-pointers, 7 assists and 6 rebounds. Alyssa Baron contributed 16 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Next year, Kalin will play professionally in Israel with S.A. Ramat Hasharon. Head Coach Jamie Shadian said:

The Games as a whole were a once in a lifetime experience. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach players who are unbelievable people as well as talented athletes. Sharing such an emotional and inspirational month with this team will remain one of the most special experiences of my life.

The under-18 men’s team also beat Israel in the game for the gold medal, 78-62. The two standouts of the final game were Spencer Weisz (19 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) and Anthony Firkser (19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals). Head Coach Jamie Chadwin said:

The trip was tremendous. Not only for the basketball competition but for the cultural, emotional connection we all felt. The young men on the Youth Team were special in the way the competed, learned, and represented their country.

The under-18 women’s team cruised to the gold medal, beating Canada 77-26 (!) in the final game. Tournament MVP Drew Edelman, who will play for the University of Southern California in the coming season, scored 30 points and added 14 rebounds. Shelby Zucker finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds. “I could not be more proud of the team,” said Head Coach Sherry Levin.

Our dominant performance was a product of their hard work, dedication and unselfish team work. On the court it, was amazing to see them come together and execute the game plan against Australia, Canada and Israel. Off the court, we all experienced the wonders of Israel along with the meaningful connections to our heritage, which made the Maccabiah Games a lifetime experience to remember.

MaccabiUSA: Basketball Juniors Boy's &emdash; BASJBasketball Juniors Boys

The under-16 boys team won the silver medal after losing to Israel in the final. The team was led in scoring throughout the tournament by Spencer Freedman, Corey Sherman and, specifically in the final game, Jacob Orender. Jordan Baum led a long list of assist providers. Sam Fieldman and Michael Hayon were the team’s top rebounders. Orender was also the team’s best defensive player.

“It was an awesome and surreal opportunity to participate in the 19th Maccabiah,” said Head Coach Barry Kleiman. “The opportunity for my wife and me to visit Israel for the first time while representing the USA as a coach was beyond a life’s dream.”

As a competitor, one can never be “happy” with a silver medal, but as a coach of many years and games, one learns that there is always a team at the end of a game with fewer points than the other, and in this case that was our team.

I commend the Israeli team for their fabulous effort and great sportsmanship; their win had nothing to do with luck. I commend our team for refusing to give in and continuing to compete until the final buzzer.

Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve never lost a game, I just ran out of time.” We simply ran out of time that day, and remain grateful for the opportunity we had to compete.

Maccabiah Basketball Coach Teaches the Importance of Relationships


Barry Kleiman with wife and team manager Marcie

— by Amir Shoam

When Barry Kleiman, coach of the Under-16 basketball team for the Maccabiah, was 19, he worked as a counselor at a sleepover camp in the Philadelphia area. One day after lunch, when he and the other counselors were playing basketball, a 12-year-old girl named Donna asked them to teach her how to play. She kept playing with them every day during the camp, and in the next two summers, in which she also attended the camp. The two had not seen each other for the next 30 years. When a camp reunion meeting, which Kleiman could not attend as he was living in California, was approaching, he asked his close friend, who also worked in the camp as a counselor, to look for Donna.

It turned out that since the camp Donna had represented Queens College in the All-America women’s basketball team, was selected to the all-star game of the Women’s Pro Basketball League, represented the U.S. in the 1985 Maccabiah Games, and became the PGA Tour’s senior vice president of strategic development. Later, Donna Orender became the president of the WNBA.

More after the jump.
The two have become friends again, and afterwards met again on the basketball court in the 2011 JCC Maccabi Games in Springfield, MA, as Orender’s twin sons participated in the basketball tournament. One year later, Orender, also one of Maccabi USA’s vice presidents, recommended Kleiman for his current position. “I feel honored about that,” said Kleiman, “I know there were other people who were qualified for this job, but I got it because Donna knew me as a coach and as a person and was sure about me. This story shows the importance of creating and maintaining relationships.”

This principal has also led Kleiman in selecting the squad for the coming tournament: “I wanted to pick not only good basketball players, but also people that I wanted to spend four weeks in Israel with,” he said.

Before the trials, I asked each player to write a letter about their motivation and expectations regarding the tournament. I wanted people who would listen, play strong, and know how to work with people they had not known before. I enjoy improving those aspects in players during a season, but it is not something that you can do in one week of training before a tournament.

Among the chosen players are four from the Lower Merion High School: Corey Sherman of the school’s first team, and Michael Berg, Jeremy Horn and Eli Needle of the freshmen team. An interesting coincidence considering that unlike other coaches, Kleiman did not pick players who had already known each other on purpose.

“I was awed to hear that four kids from one high school made it to a national team,” said Berg.

It is not very often that I can experience something as big as that with people I literally see every day in classes. I have always wanted to visit Israel, and the fact that I get to do something that I really like while I am there makes it a great honor. The players who made it from the tryouts were all very good, and I expected them to make it. I also remember a couple of twins from Florida [Orender’s sons, Jacob and Zach], as well as a tall guard from Illinois [Jordan Baum].

“I was quite nervous about the trials,” admits the 15-year-old forward.

I do not consider myself a good tryout player because I am not a “flashy.” Additionally, I am a perfectionist, so whenever I did something wrong, I would think about it for a long period of time during the tryout. I respect Coach Kleiman very much for seeing my value as a player.

“Winning the gold is the goal for me, and I am sure that most of my teammates feel the same,” continues Berg. “The whole experience is special, but we go there to win and represent the U.S. the way we should.”

Based on the east coast tryout sessions and Coach Kleiman’s words, we don’t have too much size. I expect us to be a quick-running and sharp-shooting team. We should not expect anything less than winning.

“I try to ignore any expectations,” concludes Kleiman. “In the last tournament the U.S. won the gold, but due to the age restriction those are not the same players this time. I try not to manage aspirations, but reality: to be as good as this team can. I expect the players not just to try to score, but to do everything yachad — together, so that this tournament will become a great memory.”

U.S. Under-16 basketball team for the Maccabiah:

Players

  • Jordan Baum, Deerfield, IL;
  • Ofek Belkin, El Paso, TX;
  • Michael Berg, Merion Station, PA;
  • Sam Fieldman, Roslyn Heights, NY;
  • Spencer Freedman, Pacific Palisades, CA;
  • Michael Hayon, Calabasas, CA;
  • Jeremy Horn, Wynnewood, PA;
  • Eli Needle, Merion Station, PA;
  • Jacob Orender, Jacksonville Beach, FL;
  • Zach Orender, Jacksonville Beach, FL;
  • Corey Sherman, Penn Valley, PA; and
  • Isaac Siegel, Amherst, MA.
Coaching staff

  • Head Coach: Barry Kleiman;
  • Assistant Coach: Dave Goldman;
  • Assistant Coach: Jake Shechtman; and
  • Manager: Marcie Kleiman.

Euroleague Basketball: 6 Straight Wins Get Maccabi to Quarter-Final

— by Amir Shoam

Despite the 71-74 loss to Barcelona in the basketball Euroleague second group stage yesterday, Maccabi Tel Aviv qualified to the quarter-final stage, and will meet Spanish League leader Real Madrid for a best-out-of-five game series starting next Wednesday.

After losing five of its first seven games in the second group stage, Maccabi won six in a row against all of the other teams in the group execpt for Barcelona. Small forward Devin Smith was selected Euroleague MVP for March for his performances.

“We didn’t break down even when the situation was hard, and once again showed Europe who are Maccabi Tel Aviv,” said Head Coach David Blatt. “We believed in ourselves and worked hard, and that’s what makes the difference between winners and losers.”

Euroleague Basketball: 3 Straight Wins Get Maccabi Back in Business

— by Amir Shoam

Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Fenerbahce-Ulker Istanbul 94-85 yesterday and went back up to a 5-5 record in the basketball Euroleague second group stage. After an even first quarter (22-22), Maccabi went up to 33-23, and the Turks never managed to cut the difference down to less than five points.

Ricky Hickman scored 18 points with great accuracy (3/5 three-pointers, 7/8 free throws and 1/1 two-pointer). David Logan finished with 15 points (5/7 three-pointers), 3 assists, 2 rebounds, one steal and no turnovers. Devin Smith added 16 points (4/6 three-pointers and 2/3 two-pointers).

More after the jump.
Despite finishing the first stage on top of its group with a 8-2 record, Maccabi did not start the current stage well. Maccabi’s only win from the first five games was the previous encounter with Fenerabhce-Ulker. Since then, except for an understandable 77-82 loss to Barcelona, Maccabi got impressive wins against Basiktas Istanbul (77-55), Siena (92-61) and Caja Laboral (66-62). Next week Maccabi will play against Khimki Mosscow. After 14 games, the top four teams out of eight in each group will move up to the quarter-final series stage.

Head coach David Blatt concluded:

We came today with a very determined mindset knowing that this was a critical game and we played accordingly. We saw some great basketball and teamwork and that’s how Maccabi needs to play. We made a lot of three-pointers because we moved the ball well and got to open shots; we didn’t take crazy shots. The game against Khimki could determine our entire season and it will be a real battle.

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Basketball: Maccabi Tel Aviv Returns To Win Against Istanbul

— by Amir Shoam

After two disappointing losses, Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Fenerbahce-Ulker Istanbul 91-73 yesterday in the basketball Euroleague second group stage. Maccabi could not flee during the first half, which ended in 36-36. During the third quarter Maccabi seemed to run away, but the Turks managed to cut the difference back to 53-48 by its end. However, in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter Maccabi went up to 66-54, and Fenerbahce could not get back from that.

More after the jump.
Maccabi enjoyed a great day of its two best scorers this season: center Shawn James scored 9/10 two-point throws and 4/4 free throws, and also contributed five rebounds and an assist in his 30 minutes on the field. Guard Ricky Hickman scored 6/8 two-pointers, 9/9 free throws and 1/3 three-pointers, and added five assists and five rebounds in 29 minutes. However, Israeli guard Moran Roth was selected game MVP for his six assists and eight points, including 2/2 three-pointers, in 16 minutes.

As remembered, Maccabi finished the first group stage in the first place out of six with an 8-2 win-lose record. As a result, it was placed as one of the two group winners out of eight teams in the new group. In the first game of the stage Maccabi lost to Siena, which finished third in Maccabi’s group in the first stage but has greatly improved during the season — 69-79. Last week Maccabi lost 70-71 to Caja Laboral. The teams that finish in the first four places of this group will advance to the quarter-final series stage.

“Fener has a lot of useful players, but we played better as a team”, said head coach David Blatt. “I’m still hurting last week, because we could win an even better team, but at least we’re back in business. It wasn’t as easy as the score suggests, but the last quarter was something special. We defended pretty well as always, but we needed another scorer except for Ricky and Shawn and I’m happy that Moran had a great game”.

Basketball: Maccabi In Final Game For 1st Place

— by Amir Shoam

Maccabi Tel Aviv will play tomorrow against Alba Berlin in the last game of the basketball Euroleague group stage. Maccabi currently holds the 1st place in the group as it won Unicaja Malaga, which is in second place, by 5 points and lost to it by 2. While a win tomorrow will get Maccabi the 1st place, a loss will let Malaga have it if it wins Elan Chalon.  The group’s winner will get teams that were ranked lower in the round as it’s rivals in the second group stage.

More after the jump.
Yesterday Maccabi’s players and staff visited the schnieder children’s hospital in Petach Tikvah, distributed presents and even performed the Korean hit song “Gangnam style” for the children.”Through those visits the players realize what’s really important in life and try to give back the love they get”, said head coach David Blatt.

Basketball: Maccabi Looks To Secure First Place

– by Amir Shoam

Maccabi Tel Aviv will play tomorrow in Italy against Sienna in the basketball Euroleague group stage. With a 5-1 record, Maccabi is currently holding the group’s first place thanks to winning Unicaja Malaga by 5 points before losing to it by 2 points last week. Sienna is the third-best team in the group so far with a 3-3 record, and a win against it will make it very possible for Maccabi to finish the group with a 9-1 record, which will guarantee first place.

More after the jump.
Last Sunday Maccabi beat Hapoel Eilat 79-68 in a game full of upsets in the local league. Israeli forward Lior Eliyahu was man of the match with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.

Israel’s national team was drawn to a relatively easy group in the 2013 European championship: except for 2011’s silver medalist France, the team will play against Britain, Germany, Ukraine and Belgium, in all of which basketball is not considered a major sport. The tournament will be held in Slovenia next September, and the top three teams from each group will qualify to the next round.

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Basketball: Maccabi Loses, But Retains First Place

— by Amir Shoam

Maccabi Tel Aviv lost today 62-64 to Unicaja Malaga in the basketball Euroleague group stage. However, with both teams holding a positive 5-1 record in the competition now, Maccabi still beats Malaga in the group table for winning it 85-80 in the first round. The score has been close for most of the game’s time, with Malaga leading twice by six points and Maccabi leading once by five only to see each other coming back. Devin Smith and Ricky Hickman missed during Maccabi’s last possession and could not force overtime.

More after the jump.
Center Shawn James contributed 14 points, nine rebounds and two steals for Maccabi in 20 minutes. Hickman added 13 points, five rebounds and five steals in 28 minutes. Israeli guard Yogev Ohayon finished with seven points, seven of Maccabi’s total nine assists, and two steals in 31 minutes.

Just a couple of hours before the game rockets were fired to the Tel Aviv area, for the first time since the Gulf War in 1991. The result of Hamas’ attack was that the Yad Eliyahu arena (11,700 sits) was not full, which rarely happens in a Euroleague game.

“All through the game we played too slow and did not develop the kind of game we needed to”, said head coach David Blatt. “All of the surrounding events affected us more than they did them, but some things are more important than this game. Despite that, the game had to be played”, he added.

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Basketball: Maccabi Struggles To Finish The Round Perfect

– by Amir Shoam

Maccabi Tel Aviv finished the 1st round of the basketball Euroleague group stage with a perfect 5-0 score, after a close-fought 78-76 win over Alba Berlin. Maccabi (this time in blue uniforms) scored the first 12 points of the game, but Alba showed improvement during the first half and first equalized the score at 30-30. The host even led 40-46 during the 3rd quarter, but another impressive run sent Maccabi back to lead 52-47. Alba missed its last throw, which cost it the game.

More after the jump.
Tonight’s hero was forward Devin Smith, with 20 points, 3 assists and 1 block in 28 minutes. Israeli swingman Guy Pnini made an important contribution off the bench, with 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist in 16 minutes. Malcolm Thomas added 9 points, 6 rebounds and a steal in 22 minutes. Next Thursday Maccabi will host the Spanish Unicaja Malaga.

Soccer – Hapoel Tel Aviv was beaten 0-4 in Czech by Viktoria Plzen in the European league group stage. On Sunday the team will play against Maccabi Tel Aviv, and coach Yossi Abukasis had decided to keep many of his first-stringers on the bench in order to rest them.