Turell, Leifer Lead Men’s Basketball's Awards Haul
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Division III awards were announced on March 24, as Macs Head Coach Elliot Steinmetz took home the Coach of the Year Award, senior Gabriel Leifer (SSSB ‘21) made 4th Team, and sophomore Ryan Turell (SSSB ‘22) made 1st Team. The #13 Macs were set up for a thriller in the Sweet 16 against #3 Randolph-Macon, but as the team’s bus pulled into their hotel in Ashland, Virginia, news broke that the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Dave McHugh of D3Hoops.com specified the criteria for Coach of the Year in this abbreviated season as a combination of “what you did on the court, what you did as a program, and what you have done overall.” Steinmetz and his Macs not only garnered national recognition as they reeled off a program-best 29 wins in a row, but they also tallied their first-ever wins in the Division III tournament this season. “They [YU], among others, had a legitimate chance to win the national title,” McHugh said.
In talking to McHugh, Steinmetz discussed the team’s reaction to the cancellation. “We’re competitors,” said Steinmetz. “And we wanted to see if we could go beat Randolph-Macon, the best defensive team in the country. It wasn’t enough for us to just say we didn’t lose.” Steinmetz, a Sy Syms School of Business alum in his sixth season as YU’s head coach, works as an attorney in addition to his role as the Macs’ head coach.
Leifer, the 2018-2019 Skyline Player of the Year, led D-3 in triple doubles (4) while averaging 16 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists. He turned up his play when the games mattered most, notching 10/20/10 triple doubles in both the Skyline Conference Championship and the Tournament’s Round of 32. Leifer grabbed 412 boards and dished 199 assists this season, both of which set YU single-season records. Leifer already owns the YU record for career assists (408), and the 6-foot-5-inch power forward from Lawrence, New York will look to add to it next year, his final season at YU.
Turell ascended from 2018-2019 Rookie of the Year to 2019-2020 First Team All American. He shot 64% from the field and 46% from three point range, fueling YU’s single-season points record with 646. After he eclipsed 1,000 points faster than any YU player ever had and ended the season with 1,190 for his career, he may blow past the all-time YU scoring record, held by Yossi Gev (‘02) with 1,871 points.
In the school’s first-ever tournament games, Turell scored 41 (the 4th highest single-game score in YU history) and 30 points against WPC and PSU, respectively. Turell hit 10 out of his 12 threes on his way to a 77% field goal percentage in those games. Many were eager to see if he could sustain those mind-boggling percentages against a top-three team in the country when facing Randolph-Macon, but COVID-19 quashed those hopes.
Regarding his reaction to the award as well as his goals for next year, Turell commented, “It’s great if you’re a senior, so as a sophomore it’s pretty exciting! But at the end of the day … we’re chasing letters, not numbers. The only thing I got on my mind for next year is a National Championship.”
Coach Steinmetz and stars Leifer and Turell will be back next year, as the team will look to justify their #13 ranking and prove that their season was not a fluke.
Photo Caption: YU Macs embracing each other at a home game
Photo Credit: The Commentator