Israeli pair lives out hoops dream at Yeshiva

If you ask the average Israeli to name a player on the Yeshiva team, chances are you’ll receive a blank stare.

July 26, 2012 04:50
GIL BASH plays for the Yeshiva University Macabees

ISRAELI GIL BASH playing for the Yeshiva University Macabees. (photo credit: Yeshiva University 2012)


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Yeshiva University is not known for their athletic program. If you ask the average Israeli to name one player on the Yeshiva team, chances are you’ll receive a blank stare in return.

The Yeshiva Macabees compete in the NCAA Division III Skyline Conference in New York.

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Since the Macs play in a lowly division none of their games are televised and their performance never gains national attention.

However, if Israelis were aware that players such as Omer Haim and Gil Bash played for Yeshiva this past year, the Macs fan base would surely expand.

The Jerusalem Post caught up with Yeshiva’s Head Coach Jonathan Halpert, who explained what brought the Israelis to the school.

“Gil and Omer are the twenty-ninth and thirtieth Israelis to play for Yeshiva since Miko Danan arrived in 1990.

“Like the previous players they came to study, compete and experience life in an American university.”

Both Haim and Bash have had experience playing in Israel’s Junior and Professional Leagues. However they each have their own unique story, about why they chose to attend Yeshiva University.

Haim began playing at the age of six, and later played for two select teams, Maccabi Rishon Lezion, and Gymnasia Realit Rishon Lezion.

He was first recruited to be the starting point guard for the University of Bridgeport, one of Division II’s best basketball programs at the time.

Haim chose to take a leave of absence and return to Israel following the death of his mother. His coach was unhappy to lose his starting point guard, and severed ties with Haim.

“Three weeks later I received a call from Coach Halpert. I didn’t know anything about YU except that their leading scorer Yossi Gev, was Israeli,” Haim said.

“I wanted to play basketball, and after meeting with Coach Halpert, I knew he was someone that I could trust.”

In his final season at Yeshiva, Haim averaged a league leading 6.24 assists for the Macs, and was also third in the league in Assist-Turnover ratio at 1.82.

When he’s not on the court, Haim devotes his time to helping others in the community. He coaches basketball for children, and also launched ‘Sandwicharity’, an organization that goes around New York City, distributing homemade packaged meals to people in need.

Gil Bash began playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv when he was eight years old, and stayed with the club until his senior year of high school, when he was the captain of the junior team.

After graduating, Bash spent a few years playing for Israeli teams, most notably for first division squad Ramat Hasharon.

Like Haim, Bash initially planned on spending his college career elsewhere, but ended up at Yeshiva after things didn’t work out.

“I was supposed to play for a Division II program, but there were complications,” Bash said.

“I heard about Yeshiva through friends of mine, and after talking with Coach Halpert, I decided to go and play for the Macs.”

Bash says he was reluctant at first to play for Yeshiva. “At first I didn’t want to come to Yeshiva because it was a Division III school and I grew up in a completely secular family.”

Bash has been an important piece of Halpert’s team, contributing through his scoring as well as his court-vision. This past season, starting alongside Haim, Bash averaged 11.2 points and was 7th in the league with 3.17 assists per game.

In addition to being a successful basketball player, Bash is working hard to earn his CPA degree in accounting. When asked about his plans for the future, Bash said, “I really want to return to Israel, but right now my focus is on my studies.

“I know that staying in America will not give me the opportunity to continue playing basketball. The opportunity lies in Israel.

“The adrenaline rush I feel every game and every practice is something that I can’t find anywhere else here in America.

“I have learned a lot from my experience at Yeshiva and I appreciate all the opportunities they have presented to me.”

The players also reflected on the challenges that come with playing college basketball in America. According to Haim, “the basketball in college is very different; here the game is more physical and based on athletic skills.

“In Israel and Europe basketball is more about having a high basketball IQ, and playing smart. There are also a lot more 3-point shots taken.”

Bash added, “The main differences are athleticism, physicality, and intensity.

“Basketball is the same all over the world, but here there are much more talented and skillful players.

“Even though it is Division III, we play against a lot of players who could definitely play professionally around the world.”

Asked whether they would recommend playing at Yeshiva or other programs in America, Haim and Bash had similar responses. Both agreed that while Yeshiva can be difficult with its rigorous dual curriculum, the school is located in lively New York City.

However, they pointed out that the prime location is only advantageous if you prioritize correctly. They concluded with the following statements: “If you come to America, with the sole intention of playing basketball YU is not the place for you.”

Education is very important for the two players, and they are happy with their experiences at Yeshiva, on the court as well as in the classroom.

“Yeshiva University, aside from having a great basketball program, has provided us with the necessary tools and resources for the future,” Haim said.

In the eyes of Coach Halpert the Israeli players have not only contributed on the court, but also have gained from their time spent at Yeshiva.

“Beyond their studies and athletic victories both Gil and Omer acquired a greater appreciation and understanding of the principals and values of modern orthodox Judaism,” he said.

“The players and Yeshiva have been a perfect marriage because both they and the University community have benefited greatly from the shared experiences of the past four years.”

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