By: Judah Stiefel  | 

The Hods: First Family of YU Basketball

For the first time in NCAA Division III history and just the fourth time in the over one-hundred-year history of the NCAA, three siblings appeared on the court at the same time. Jordan, Justin, and Tyler Hod played simultaneously on January 15, 2017 in the YU Maccabees 73-43 home win against Sarah Lawrence College. While the Macs basketball season came to a close this past Tuesday night with a 72-55 loss at Purchase, the Hod boys added a truly intriguing storyline to the Mac’s winning season. This game was the last game for Jordan, the oldest of the Hod brothers, but with Justin finishing his second season and Tyler finishing his first, there is sure to be a strong continued Hod presence on the team.

The Hod basketball legacy did not start with Jordan’s freshman year four years ago, but rather dates all the way back to 1984 when Lior Hod, father to the current students, began to play with the team. If you don’t know Lior, he’s the one sitting with the camera next to his wife Janet in the center of the bleachers at every single Mac’s game, home and away. Lior has hardly missed a single one of his sons’ games dating back to their days playing for the Frisch Cougars in high school. He’s barely even missed a practice; Varsity or JV. Janet (Mama) Hod used to do the books for Frisch during games, and the boy’s older sister Samantha was herself a very successful athlete at Frisch.

After each game, Lior goes over each play with his sons and focuses very intensely on what they did well and what they can improve. A lesson that Lior emphasizes is, “Always be prepared.” This applies on and off the court. Says Lior, “The videos help them get better. They’re always improving and always learning from themselves. When the other team beats them somehow, they’ll always win the second time.” All you have to do to see how hard the Hod boys work is to drive past their house in Teaneck where you will almost always see two yellow Hummers, somewhere between one and eight dogs, and the Hod boys balling in the driveway. You’re also likely to see half the Mac’s squad balling with them.

For the Hod boys, balling together is a privilege which brings them closer together. Writes Tyler Hod, “After finishing a complete season playing for YU, as well as playing with my brothers, I truly realized how blessed I am to have the two older brothers that I do. Besides for making this transition (playing YU ball) much easier for me, they have also guided me and gave me constant advice. Jordan has shown me, through his actions, how to lead a team and how to have the proper work ethic. I truly appreciate all they've done for me.”

When asked which of his sons is the best basketball player, a question Lior is rather used to, he explained, “They all play differently in a similar position. Jordan is more of a quick point guard. Justin is a shooter. He’ll take twenty shots, miss twenty shots, and still take the twenty-first. Tyler is a hybrid. He plays with a lot of passion and has great defense.” Tyler won MVP of Sarachek his senior year of high school.

Jordan, Justin, and Tyler playing together is, believe it or not, not the first instance Hod brothers have played on the court together in YU. When Lior was on the team, he played with his brother Ayal who was one year his junior. Ayal was a 5’9” point-guard who grew six inches the summer of his senior year of high school. Lior and Ayal dominated the court and earned the nickname “The Twin Towers” for their dominance on the court. In his last game of the season in 1988, Lior broke the YU scoring record, scoring thirty points in a 115-79 win over St. Joseph, Long Island (he still has the tape). Lior never led the team in any individual year in scoring, and focused on every element of his game. Ayal broke Lior’s scoring record the very next year.

For Lior and Ayal, their journey to the YU basketball team was no simple thing. In 1980, the brothers moved from Israel to Atlanta with their parents to open a restaurant. Their parents’ business partner unfortunately died of lung cancer only three months after they arrived, and the restaurant subsequently failed. The Hod parents moved back to Israel, but the brothers opted to stay in Atlanta where they had begun to build lives. The Hod brothers would not see their parents for seven years, until Lior’s father attended Janet and Lior’s wedding. The fact that his parents never got to watch him play basketball inspired Lior to never miss his sons’ games. Lior worked hard to keep their apartment, and he still managed to play five hours of ball a day. They met Rav Feldman of Atlanta who gave them jobs, but kicked them out after all they wanted to do all day was play basketball.

At the end of his senior year of high school, Lior tried out for Emmanuel College, a Baptist school which granted him a two-year scholarship provided that he would attend church each day. At the time, Lior was not religious and the church clause of his scholarship didn’t bother him. One day a man at the Atlanta JCC saw Lior playing and called Johnny Halpert, the coach of the YU team at the time. Halpert got in touch with Lior and asked him if he’d ever heard of YU. “Why who?” Lior responded.

Johnny offered Lior a four-year scholarship, and Lior took a last-minute flight to LaGuardia with the help of Rav Feldman. Coach Halpert picked Lior up from the airport and dropped him off at YU where Lior was dorming on Rubin seven. When he woke up in the morning, he saw a guy with a beard and glasses staring down at him who turned out to be his roommate Moshe Mursky. For two months Lior was rather depressed in YU. All the guys around him had beards and glasses, the top of the backboard of the gym in the MTA building touched the ceiling, and there were no girls.

Eventually, Lior met Randy Schwartz from Pittsburg and he began to enjoy his time at YU. They played their games at George Washington High School. Lior worked in the YU cafeteria and would buy his hot dogs down the block where they were half the price. Knowing no one in New York City, Lior would spend many of his Shabbatot at Johnny Halpert’s house, where he observed the warm atmosphere and religiosity with which the Halperts interacted at the table. Nowadays, the Hods have a massive dining room table which they are always using to entertain scores of people with their famous Hod hospitality. Lior attributes this to the inspiration he received from Coach Halpert. Johnny Halpert stayed on as coach for one extra year so that he could coach Jordan when he arrived at YU, and this past year Jordan was the last active player to have had the privilege of being coached by Johnny.

Lior says he won the lottery twice. Once through the Reagan immigration lottery through which he became a citizen, and once upon meeting his wife Janet. For everything else, Lior worked extremely hard, working late nights, taking every opportunity he got, and always being prepared as he has always been on the court. He eventually founded his extremely successful company Ellkay, a “nationwide leader in healthcare connectivity, enabling interoperability between 40,000 practices with 550 plus systems.” When Jordan was born, he was named “Jordan, Michael” after guess who. When their rabbi, Rav Fulda, read the name, everyone at the brit started laughing, and Rav Fulda had no idea why.

Jordan writes, “It was always a dream of my father’s to have all his sons play on the YU basketball team. The drive and go-getter attitude that he instilled in us at a young age is what turned his dreams into reality. I am truly blessed to have such great brothers that always keep me motivated and on top of my game. I am lucky enough to have played with not only Justin and Tyler, but with my other 12 brothers.”

It is no coincidence that the Hod legacy is one of excellence both on and off the court. The Hod family takes their hard work and leadership they dedicate to basketball, and applies them throughout their lives. You should look forward to following the legacy of the first family of Mac’s ball for years to come.