By Nicole Wohlberg
For Mitzpeh

This upcoming weekend is one that has been marked down on everyone’s calendars for months.

The National Hillel Basketball Tournament is finally here.

“I really love NHBT because it lets me play basketball with all my friends in a competitive setting,” said Joshua Silverman, a University of Maryland senior government and politics and Arabic major.

NHBT is a student-run program that consists of 24 board members who all play a crucial role in organizing and planning the weekend.

“It has been a very long process, [the board] started meeting in November to get prepared for the weekend,” said Karen Shapiro, a freshman public health science major and NHBT board member in charge of campus recruitment.

The board members are always trying to create new ways to get the word out and attract more people.

For the first time ever, three local Maryland private Jewish high schools, Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, and Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School will come play a few games on Sunday in the Xfinity center in a high school showcase.

“A big part of this whole weekend is community and we have a surrounding community around this campus that includes Baltimore, Silver Spring, Potomac and Rockville and we really want to involve the communities around us in this weekend,” said Arianne Mazel, sophomore psychology major and director of personnel on the NHBT board.

This new and exciting event is a way to attract more people and involve nearby high school students.

National Hillel Basketball Tournament logo. Photo courtesy of NHBT.

“I am so excited for NHBT, my teammates and I are really looking forward to playing together and being apart of this amazing weekend,” said Jennie Mellman, a high school senior from Hebrew Academy.

There is also a new speaker this year as well, David Blu, an American-Israeli former professional basketball player. He will be speaking to everyone at Shabbat lunch which will be held in Stamp this year as opposed to Hillel.

“This means there is more room for everyone to come,” Mazel said.

Another new addition to this year’s NHBT is a skills competition that will take place on Saturday.

“The skills competition is a chance for players to showcase their skills outside of the games… they also have the opportunity to engage with other players outside of their team,” said Leo Samuels, freshman and NHBT board member for events and attractions.

On Saturday night during Havdalah, the Gift of Life, one of the sponsors for NHBT this year, is doing a ceremony where they are bringing together a donor of bone marrow and a recipient to meet for the first time.

“This is a new event that no one will want to miss,” said Shapiro.

All of these fun and new events are what attracts hundreds of students from universities all over the country. Campus recruitment was in touch with over 250 different universities that had a Hillel to see if there were students interested in forming a team, said Shapiro. Some of these schools include  University of Miami, Columbia University, University of Kansas, and University of Chicago.

The winning team last year, team Ammar from Yeshiva University, will not be returning as a full team this year. However, a few of the team members are coming back to play with other students from YU including small forward Benjamin Tuchman.

There are 50 teams attending this year, said Mazel. Last year there were a total of 56 teams, according to the NHBT website. The tournament is much later this year because of Passover and UMD’s spring break. Therefore, many schools that have previously attended will not be participating this year, including the University of Michigan and Brandeis University.

“We still have a great turnout of players and fans and it’s going to be 500 plus people,” said Mazel.

This year all of the games will take place at the Xfinity center, home of the University of Maryland Terrapins. In past years there were games in multiple different buildings and not every team was able to play in the Xfinity Center.

The board made it a priority this year to let all the teams play in the Xfinity center.

“To have all the players be able to say that they played where the University of Maryland Terps play is a really awesome new thing that we are able to do this year,” Mazel said.

This year’s NHBT is filled with new events, schools, and players from all over the country and a weekend full of basketball.

“It is going to be an amazing weekend and I am so excited,” said Rachel Kahen, a sophomore at Stern College for Women who will be playing for Stern College in NHBT.


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