Abby Meyers can still feel the moment when the USA Women’s Open Basketball Team won the gold medal at last month’s Maccabiah Games, held in Israel.
The Potomac resident’s team was leading Israel 88-55. Then the buzzer sounded.
“Being able to really, finally have that moment come to fruition, was great,” she said. “For the buzzer to sound and for me to throw the basketball up in the air and for all of us to kind of gather in a big circle and cheer — I think it was just a cherry on top of the whole experience.”
The 21st Maccabiah Games — the Jewish and Israeli Olympics — took place in Israel over three weeks last month with athletes from around the world competing in basketball, baseball, field hockey, golf, gymnastics — even chess.
Meyers said her American women’s basketball team competed against two other teams, one from Israel, the other from Australia. They competed in a round robin- style tournament in Netanya. The Americans first played two back-to-back games against Israel, and then, after a day of rest, another two against Australia. The two teams with the best record, USA and Israel, then competed in the finals in Jerusalem, with the Americans taking the gold.
One of the more challenging aspects of the games involved how, in international basketball, the referees tend to call fouls significantly less than their American counterparts do, Meyers said.
“International play is much more physical. The refs really let you play through fouls, through contacts, so you’re not going to get the calls that you want all the time.”
The Israeli and Australian teams were skilled, she said. But in the end, the Americans “just outmatched them.” Her team’s strategy, she added, was to “run them off the court,” with the objective of breaking the other team’s comfort and rhythm.
“It’s kind of a run and gun basketball,” said Meyers. “You get the ball, you sprint, try and get some quick baskets and transitions, and push the pace of the game so that they get uncomfortable. They’re not in the rhythm. But that’s our style of play, so we dictate the pace of the game.”
Born and raised in Potomac, Meyers grew up in a household that “culturally celebrated Judaism,” going to synagogue for the major holidays. Meyers’s parents encouraged her and her sisters to be active in extracurricular activities, including sports. Growing up, Meyers played soccer, tennis and golf, in addition to basketball.
It was around age 12 that Meyers began focusing more on basketball. She said the game came more naturally to her than her other sports. She enjoyed watching the WNBA and college basketball, and realized that basketball was faster paced than the other sports she played. A player could score every 30 seconds. And the game requires players to be good in multiple roles.
“It requires you to be ferocious both on the offensive end and the defensive end,” said Meyers. “You can’t just be good at one thing. You have to be good at a little bit of everything.”
Meyers graduated from Princeton University with a bachelor’s degree in public policy and international affairs, while also playing for the school. She has enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Maryland, College Park, and will begin taking classes toward a master’s degree in business and management while playing for the university as well.
Meyers was still playing for Princeton when her assistant coach, Lauren Battista, was contacted by Sherry Levin, the women’s basketball coach for the Maccabi USA team, who was conducting a search for college-age Jewish basketball athletes around the country. Battista suggested Meyers, who later passed her 2021 tryouts in Boston before being invited onto the team.
“It was just a very, very much like a humbling, cool experience to be recognized as one of the best Jewish basketball players of my age in the country,” said Meyers on receiving the opportunity to play in the Maccabiah Games. “It kind of validates all the hard work you’ve put into the game.”