Hillel basketball tournament fetches record numbers

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Despite tight defense by Yeshiva University, a George Washington University player scores on a reverse layup. Photos by Lisa Appelbaum of Photography By Lisa
Despite tight defense by Yeshiva University, a George Washington University player scores on a reverse layup.
Photos by Lisa Appelbaum of Photography By Lisa

Bringing in more than 2,400 Jewish collegiate basketball players, coaches and fans from around the country requires an ambitious checklist, even for18 students willing to fill their time with the details and work required to host a competitive tournament followed by a concert featuring Matisyahu and Nadim Azzam.

And don’t forget all that Gatorade.

The National Hillel Basketball Tournament, hosted annually by Maryland Hillel, completed its sixth year last weekend when more than 50 teams from 35 schools came together in College Park with two things uniting them: Judaism and basketball.

“What’s unique about [NHBT] is that we’re a tournament with a board of 18 students that starts the first week of the [school] year in September and we work until the tournament happens,” said Joseph

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Tuchman, chairman of the tournament and a graduating senior at U-Md. “These are 18 students who are all go-getters from other organizations [around campus].”

Tuchman, 24, from Silver Spring, got involved as a freshman and has run the show for three years straight. The event, which is fully student-run, had a budget of $100,000, all raised and distributed by students.

“To do that you need to have incredible trust in everyone on the team,” said Tuchman.

He has seen the event grow from 25 teams, 200 athletes and one sponsor.

The championship games were dedicated to Jewish students killed in the past year.

The men’s championship game, dedicated to Ezra Schwartz who was killed while studying in Israel, ended at 46 to 40 with Yeshiva University beating George Washington University.

A player from the Stern College for Women tries to fight through the Emory University defense.
A player from the Stern College for Women tries to fight through the Emory University defense.

“It was nice to spend Shabbos with so many Hillels from around the country,” said Mikhael Smits, from Boston, who played for Princeton University. “You get to reconnect with old friends, make new ones and play a little bit of basketball.”

Smits added, at Princeton, he plays for an intramural Jewish basketball team called Gefilte Swish. The team brought eight members to the tournament and made it to the sweet 16.

“The tournament itself is great but [I enjoy] just hanging out with everyone and the atmosphere of it,” said Uri Pearl, who is from Atlanta and played for U-Md.

Emory University took the women’s championship game, dedicated to Daniella Moffson who was killed in a bus crash in Honduras, with a score of 28 to 15 against Stern College for Women.

The tournament, which was created by alumna Rachel Klausner in 2010, attracts both under and upperclassmen.

“I’m loving [the tournament], it’s [set up well],” said Sara Grzebinski, a freshman from Columbia University. “It’s great to be around so many other Jewish kids and [we’re] having a good time meeting each other.”

The tournament also brings together Jewish college students for a Shabbat weekend. This year, more than 600 people attended the Friday night dinner.

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Board members are all smiles after another successful tournament. The National Hillel Basketball Tournament is student-run and had 18 board members this year.
Board members are all smiles after another successful tournament. The National Hillel Basketball Tournament is student-run and had 18 board members this year.
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