To Deal With Expectations: Men’s Basketball Season Preview
Following a championship season, the YU men’s basketball team has set out to prove that last year’s success was more than an aberration. Tonight, the men’s basketball team will host their home opener against Skyline Conference rival, the Sarah Lawrence Gryphons. The pregame ceremony will include a tribute to the victims of the massacre in Pittsburgh and the raising of the championship banners from Yeshiva’s three Skyline Conference Championships from last season: men’s tennis, women’s tennis and men’s basketball.
“I’m looking forward to being a part of the banner raising with my team,” said men’s basketball Head Coach Elliot Steinmetz. “They work so hard — I’m not sure people truly appreciate what goes into being a student-athlete at YU. They deserve a night to be appreciated so I’m happy to be there and support them in what they’ve accomplished.”
After being the first Yeshiva basketball team to win the Conference Championship, the returning players will certainly relish in the celebration on Tuesday evening while the newcomers look at what they can potentially be apart of in the future. But after the metaphorical confetti clears, the 2018-19 Maccabees will turn back to the hardwood for a season of basketball where the road to repeated success remains far from guaranteed.
The 2018-19 season has yet to see a men’s basketball victory, with the team losing its first two games by a combined margin of five points. One of these losses was a buzzer beater against Final Four contender Ramapo Roadrunners, but the game was close nonetheless. With its first game against Sarah Lawrence, Steinmetz is preaching patience.
“We’ve been starting a couple of freshmen and playing more of them off the bench,” Steinmetz said in response to his team’s close call loses. “These guys are playing their first ever college games. I think as the season goes on we will continue to mature and improve.”
A notable freshman is 6’ 7’’ forward Ryan Turell from Valley Torah High School in Los Angeles. In his first two collegiate games, Turell has shot a combined 16-28 from the field, or 57 percent, showing few visible signs of the growing pains to which Steinmetz refers.
Another potential cause of this 0-2 slide is the absence of Skyline Conference Championship Most Outstanding Player junior Simcha Halpert. Halpert, who was recently named co-captain along with seniors Daniel Katz and Tal Gweta, is sidelined due to injury. Steinmetz is looking forward to Halpert’s return to action, when he will be able to help the team with his two years of experience and his award-winning shooting abilities. Assuming all goes well, Halpert will join Turell, teammate Gabe Leifer and the rest of the sharpshooting Macs who are known for their ability to rally around clutch three-pointers.
That being said, Steinmetz can still point to aspects of the game that need improvement. “I think something we need to improve on from last season is ball control,” said Steinmetz. “Limiting turnovers. We need to take better care of [the ball]. We shoot such a high percentage it’s a shame to ever give up possessions without a shot at the basket.”
Last season, the team shot a combined 47 percent from the field while also inducing 445 turnovers, which, on average, is one more per game than their opponents combined. But turnovers aside, YU men’s basketball team enters the season with “a target on their backs,” said Steinmetz.
This target can also be called expectations. For the first time in program history, the Maccabees received a top 25 vote from D3hoops.com’s Division III ranking. The D3hoops.com poll is voted on by a panel of 25 coaches, sports information directors and media members from across the country, and is published weekly — Yeshiva men’s basketball now has national recognition from DIII basketball experts. In addition to the D3hoops recognition, the Macs also received six first place votes on the way to a first place projection from the Skyline Conference preseason projections. All eleven Skyline head coaches vote on these rankings.
The Macs are no longer sneaking up on teams like they did during last season’s 8-0 run to the Skyline Conference playoffs, but expectations are not something the team is worried about.
“Our guys know how hard they had to work to win each and every game last year,” said Steinmetz. “We know how good our league and opponents are and we know we have to work harder than ever.”
Photo Caption: Maccabee's logo
Photo Credit: YUmacs.com