By Savannah Williams
The sounds of squelching, rain-drenched shoes, requests for directions to the arena and sleep-deprived laughter hailed in the first morning of the National Hillel Basketball Tournament. More than 400 students, 50 teams and 30 universities came together Friday morning to kick off a weekend of competition and comradery.
These teams, which spent Thursday night bonding through a D.C. bar night before meeting for preliminary games at 8 a.m. Friday, are competing for the “Kiddush Cup” in the seventh annual NHBT.
Rachel Epstein, a student at this university, founded the event in 2010 “to help bring students together around the inclusive and encompassing game of basketball,” according to the tournament’s website.
Andie Migden, a junior environmental science major from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – and captain of one of the two UNC women’s teams in the tournament – said this year’s tournament exemplified some changes that made the experience more enjoyable.
“They definitely upped their game with the swag bag – we got a nice long-sleeve shirt, we have a brand new headband… that’s really a plus,” said Migden. “Also, this year, we’re playing in the Xfinity Center, which is pretty cool.”
Previous tournaments have been hosted at Maryland Hillel. This year, Kabbalat Shabbat will still take place at the Hillel center, but Shabbat dinner, which Migden is most looking forward to (along with the “really intense” playoff rounds), will be in Ritchie Coliseum.
Between games, players snacked on bagels and gatorade, and spent their downtime approaching old friends on other teams.
Nik Levinsohn, a senior psychology and pre-med major from the University of Miami at Ohio, said he found himself recognizing a lot of other players.
“I’ve got friends from high school who are here, playing on a girls team,” said Levinsohn. “I’m an engagement intern at Hillel, so I ran into people from the institute. It’s pretty cool.”
Levinsohn, whose team plays intramurally at Miami of Ohio as “The Matzah Ballers,” said, “I think it’s just neat being here, with a bunch of Jewish people.”
He compared NHBT to his experience at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last year.
“That’s always a cool experience, to be around a lot of Jews, and get to know people, make good connections,” Levinsohn said. “It’s a really really awesome event that the school puts on. Maybe other schools can look at this and do something similar. Bringing people together, it’s always a good thing to see.”
Two players from one of the home men’s teams expressed hopes that visiting players would feel welcomed, even though they said their main goal was still to win.
“It’s cool watching a lot of Jewish people come together for one tournament. I’ve never seen anything like it before – and having it be at Maryland is unbelievable,” said Ben Susskind, a senior business management major at this university.
His friend Johnny Nulman, a fifth-year finance major, agreed. He said his determination to have good sportsmanship and “show them where the bathroom is” stemmed from a desire to let other players know “we’re an open, warm, welcome place – we have a huge Jewish community, and we’re always willing to host you whether it’s NHBT or not NHBT.”
The NHBT has games scheduled from 8 a.m. Friday through 1 p.m. Sunday, with other events – including speeches by famous basketball players – sprinkled throughout the weekend. Those who wish to follow the tournament remotely can download the free National Hillel Basketball Tournament app.
Final scores as of 12 p.m. Friday
Men Win Loss
|8 a.m.||American, 31||Maryland (Citron), 28|
|8 a.m.||YU (Weiss), 36||Johns Hopkins (Blustein), 16|
|8 a.m.||Concordia, 21||Bates – Individual, 18|
|8:30 a.m.||Maryland, (Wohlberg) 52||Temple, 15|
|8:30 a.m.||Penn, 46||Penn State, 15|
|8:30 a.m.||Princeton (Swagel), 21||Michigan State, 8|
|8:30 a.m.||University of Chicago, 36||Metro Detroit, 12|
|9 a.m.||Boston University, 44||Maryland (Kuttler), 16|
|9 a.m.||Rockland Community College, 37||Syracuse, 7|
|9 a.m.||YU (Marouani), 32||UConn, 13|
|9 a.m.||UNC, 0||Duke, 0|
|9 a.m.||University of Kansas, 33||Miami, 17|
|9:30 a.m.||Georgia State, 25||Washington, 10|
|9:30 a.m.||Johns Hopkins (Price), 23||George Washington, 18|
|9:30 a.m.||Penn, 48||Temple, 15|
|9:30 a.m.||Johns Hopkins (Blustein), 26||Maryland (Citron), 9|
|10 a.m.||YU (Weiss), 23||Concordia, 19|
|10 a.m.||Maryland (Wohlberg), 36||Penn, 18|
|10 a.m.||Michigan State, 22||Penn State, 12|
|10 a.m.||American, 29||Bates – Individual, 21|
|10 a.m.||Temple University, 15||Princeton, 8|
|10:30 a.m.||Rockland Community College, 30||UConn, 9|
|10:30 a.m.||NHBT Free Agent, 25||University of Chicago, 24|
|10:30 a.m.||Maryland (Kuttler), 17||Syracuse, 11|
|10:30 a.m.||Boston, 29||YU (Marouani), 9|
|11:00 a.m.||Georgia State, 27||Miami, 12|
|11:00 a.m.||University of Kansas, 34||George Washington, 15|
|11:00 a.m.||Johns Hopkins (Price), 43||Washington, 17|
|11:30 a.m.||YU (Weiss), 28||Maryland (Citron), 13|
|11:30 a.m.||University of Chicago, 49||Duke, 14|
|11:30 a.m.||Bates – Individual, 18||Johns Hopkins, 16|
|11:30 a.m.||Maryland (Wohlberg), 41||Penn State, 11|
|11:30 a.m.||Michigan State, 11||Temple, 3|
|12 p.m.||Boston, 46||UConn, 4|
|12 p.m.||Penn, 27||Princeton, 12|
|12 p.m.||NHBT Free Agent, 28||Duke, 11|
|12 p.m.||Rockland Community College, 28||Maryland (Kuttler), 12|
|12:30 p.m.||YU (Marouani), 19||Syracuse, 2|
Women Win Loss
|8 a.m.||Maryland, 20||Syracuse, 12|
|8 a.m.||UNC (Migden), 18||Stern, 6|
|8:30 a.m.||NHBT Free Agent, 17||UC Berkeley, 0|
|9:30 a.m.||Syracuse (Shevrin), 18||UNC (Migden), 13|
|10:30 a.m.||Maryland, 19||NHBT Free Agent, 9|
|11 a.m.||UC Berkeley, 8||Stern, 4|
|12 p.m.||Princeton, 20||Binghamton, 15|