By Daniel Chavkin, staff writer, @dchav96
Yeshiva University and Emory University won the men’s and women’s National Hillel Basketball tournament, respectively, taking home the coveted “Kiddush Cup.” The tournament took place this past weekend, March 25-27, and more than 400 Jewish athletes participated.
Led by senior Joseph Ammar, the winning men’s team was one of five basketball teams competing from Yeshiva University. The team earned a bye after going 3-0 in the regular season, three games prior to the elimination bracket.
Likewise, Emory University won the women’s bracket after going undefeated in regular season play, combining for a total record of 6-0. Emory was the only women’s team to go undefeated in the regular season.
Some schools bring one team to the tournament, while others bring multiple. If a university has multiple teams, like Yeshiva University, then each team’s name includes the name of both the university and the team captain.
Schools not only bring their teams down to Maryland, but any fans who want to watch the tournament, as well. The combination of the competition and the fan experience makes the tournament unique among others that are similar.
“It’s our version of the NCAA tournament,” senior and captain Jonny Nulman said. “One of the best weekends at the university.”
“It enhances the experience,” Nulman said. “It makes it more of an experience, not just a basketball tournament.”
Nulman has been participating in the tournament for three years, missing his only tournament while studying abroad. He said that every year, the tournament is “the best weekend of [his] college career.”
The weekend is more than just a basketball tournament. Students spend Shabbat with each other and meet people from different colleges.
Josh Goldstein, a freshman and captain for one of the Maryland teams, participated in his first NHBT this weekend.
“It’s a great experience to have all different Jews from around the whole entire country come together,” he said.
Goldstein said that, although basketball was the main attraction, the weekend was about more than just the tournament.
“[It’s about] having the experience of meeting new people, meeting new Jews, and expanding your network through the Jewish community, and being able to come together as one with all these different people,” Goldstein said.
The weekend also included an appearance by former NBA player Craig Hodges and concert by Matisyahu with special guest Nadim Azzam.
As for the tournament, Goldstein said it is easier facing people he’s never met than people he’s played against before.’
“It’s easier playing against people you have never seen play before than the people you know are good,” he said.