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A Pre-Season Review

The YU Men’s Basketball team is looking to regain some of its mojo after finishing a dismal 7-18 last season and being ranked 8th out of 10 teams in the Skyline Conference. Heading into the first game of the season, which tips off in 2 weeks, the team is looking to erase last year’s bad memories. With two weeks left to practice and one successful scrimmage against Queensboro already behind them, the team looks poised to turn last year’s season into one that can be known as merely a transitional year after the Martin Leibovich era.

As Queensboro and a few loyal fans saw in the 10-point YU victory last Wednesday night, the YU team features some new powerful additions to help bolster a now deep rotation. 6’8” big man Arman Davtian from Haifa has already earned himself a spot in the primary rotation with his quick moves to the basket and strong finishes inside, and being quite large. Arman, who played division two at Rockhurst for two years, will add to an already strong lineup of big men with 6’6” shooter and prolific scorer Dovie Hoffman from Tarzana, 6’6” athletic freak Yoni Eckmann from Wynnewood, and talented finisher and team energizer 6’6” Shlomo Weissberg from Skokie. All three American big men saw lots of playing time last year and have proved themselves capable against any team in the Skyline conference, especially with 6’10” rim-rocking backboard-breaking dunk-machine Lester Prosper from Old Westbury having graduated last year. Currently recovering from an injury is fifth-year 6’4” big man Ohad Babo, who also looks to help bolster YU’s imposing presence in the paint.

Another much talked about new addition is Benjamin “Benji” Ritholtz from Merrik. Many YU students have already seen the 6’3” Benji light it up with his money shooting from deep within three-point territory at the annual high school Saracheck tournament, two years ago. They are looking forward to seeing him continue his tenacious shooting spree on the college level. In the scrimmage last week, Benji was given plenty of playing time and drilled a deep three pointer, and sources within the team were hopeful regarding his shooting abilities based on his performance, which was considered impressive for a rookie in his first game in college.

Benji is not the only blond-haired rookie 6’3” Ben from America, however, as Ben Silver from Valley Village has also made his presence felt. Ben is a high-percentage shooter as well, who can also play the small forward position. In three years the YU team is going to be all about the Ben-Ben combo, sources have predicted.

If these were the only new additions the team had this year “it would have been enough,” in the words of the famous Haggadah Shel Pesach. However, the team has also been bolstered with beastly 6”3 forward Netanel Weinstein from Efrat and strong 6 foot point guard Adam Levine from Rishon Lezion. Both are, as noted, strong players who, combined with their speed and talent, could eventually work themselves into the rotation.

However, the bulk of the team’s damage against other teams will likely come from returning players. Captain and third year starting PG Omer Haim, 5’9”, from Rehovot, is back to lead the team again this year after being among the leaders in the conference in assists per game last season. Helping in the back court is shooting guard and fellow Captain Chen Biron from Tel Aviv, a 6’4” sharp-shooting three-point specialist with a quick release. Most of the scoring load is expected to come from third-year 6’5” Gil Bash, also from Tel-Aviv, who can inflict damage from outside, inside and is especially dangerous in the open court.

Assisting Omer off the bench and his teammates on the floor is Ohio basketball legend David Schmelzer, an athletic 6’3” point guard who’s added a deadly jump shot to his already loaded arsenal. Helping out as shooting guard is returning Niv Zinder, 6’1” from Tel Aviv, whose jacked build and blazing speed make him a lethal defender. Also playing the shooting guard spot is third year 6’3” Raphy Abergel from Montreal, whose jump shot from three-point range is inexorable when he catches fire. YU’s roster also features returning 6’ point guard Eitan Selevan, from Teaneck, arguably the quickest player on the team and one of the most talented ball handlers; fellow Teaneck resident and 6’1” second year guard Jon Furor, a fast, athletic multi-tooled player who led the team in points per minute last season despite coming off the bench; and second year 5’8” (but 5”9 with shoes) point guard Noah Botwinick from Riverdale, who likes mashed potatoes and has a cute dog named Sheba.

“This should be an exultant, jubilant season for us,” says Davtian while dunking over a less talented, less big player in the gym who was foolish enough to get in his way. “I’m particularly enthralled by the opportunity to embrace a consistent role on the team.”

“I’m gonna come watch them whenever I’m around,” says Stern student Talya Shumacher, who happened to be walking in the library while this article was being written. “It should be fun to see them competing with and hopefully beating some other universities.”