Yeshiva University made history this season by winning their first ever Skyline Conference Championship, earning a spot in the Division 3 NCAA basketball tournament where they will face York University in Pennsylvania on Friday afternoon in their first round contest.
The Yeshiva Maccabees entered their conference tournament as the #4 seeded team and beat top ranked Farmingdale State, overcame a 17 point deficit against Mount Saint Mary College and defeated 2nd ranked Purchase College 87-81 to capture the title.
In the clincher, thousands of YU fans traveled to support their team. Sophomore Simcha Halpert sealed the deal by hitting a 3 pointer with 1:31 left in the game which capped off the historic season in spectacular fashion in front of a crowd that many players compared to a home game.
One of the key components during this season was the play of 2nd year, 2 sport athlete Bar Alluf. Originally from Kfar Saba, Israel, Alluf joined Yeshiva after spending 3 years in the Israeli army when one of the assistant coaches recruited him. After not making a huge impact in his first season at Yeshiva, Alluf came alive in his second year scoring in the double digits every game he played but one. While also playing volleyball, Bar has really enjoyed his time at Yeshiva and praised his University, “Yeshiva is a very special place. I believe it is a great combination between torah study, secular studies and also sports. Everyone is very respectful, open and helpful.”
Alluf’s grandfather, David Kaminsky was instrumental at both Hapoel Jerusalem where he was the undisputed leader of the team between 1958-1963 while he also starred with the Israel National Team and influenced his basketball proves early on. “He introduced me to the game and taught me how to make a layup at 4-5 years old. I continued to play in elementary and high school and would practice day and night.”
Coming to the United States for the first time to attend Yeshiva, Alluf had high expectations for his new team. Immediately upon arrival, he noticed that the talent around him was very good and after a year of figuring out the system he and his teammates did the unthinkable by making the first ever NCAA Tournament for the Maccabees, “Our goal from day one was to win the conference.”
Of course, it wasn’t always roses Alluf recalled, “We didn’t begin the season on the bright side, we had a lot of injuries. We played most of the games with a very short rotation. I played almost 36 minutes a game so it takes a lot out of our bodies especially with our schedule. We played 2-3 games a week.”
Sitting at 6-6 at the winter break of the season, rest and the return of previously injured players gave the Maccabees the push they needed to end the season on a 12-4 run. At the beginning, it seemed nearly impossible for them to make the playoffs and even less likely for them to win if they did. But the tight knit group proved everyone wrong by taking 8 road games as the season neared its end, “We took it one game at a time and everyone supported each other which was a huge part to pour success.”
One of Alluf’s goals is to go back to Israel and play in the first division, “I always wanted to play in the first division in Israel, but I wanted to go to Yeshiva and to grow as a person, get a lot of different values, a degree and an education which I view as being valuable in the long run. But I’m still young and I am working hard and training intensely to improve my skills.”
Fortunately Daniel Tamir (former Israeli first division star Amit Tamir’s brother) came with him to the US and is serving as the Maccabees assistant coach under Head Coach Elliot Steimetz, “Tamir played in both Israel and Hungary and he’s been supporting and encouraging me to strive to be the best I can be and to play professionally in Israel.”
This season Yeshiva University exemplified their nickname ‘Maccabees’ incredibly well. A season of adversity, injuries, and being overlooked only motivated the team more to defy the odds. Players like Bar Alluf did not allow for complacency to set in and helped make sure that dos teammates never put their heads down when the going got tough. Thanks to the courage of the team and coaching staff, the 2017-2018 Yeshiva University Men’s Basketball Team will go down in the history books as one of the greatest the school has ever produced.