“It’s a great opportunity to play in a tournament like this and growing up as a Jewish kid it’s the ultimate thing. I feel like this is all setting me up to do bigger and better things. The ultimate goal is to be the starting point guard for Maccabi Tel Aviv, that’s a dream of mine and if I can reach the goal I would be very proud.”
Jeremy Lieberman is a basketball player that I’ve been following for some time and the 22-year old couldn’t have been more direct about the importance of the Maccabiah Games. He’s proud and honored to be here in Israel representing the United States, “I’m here to play basketball at the Maccabiah because it’s always been a goal of mine as a Jew to come to Israel. It’s an exciting opportunity for both me and my family to come here and play basketball.”
The floor general got his Maccabiah campaign off to a fine start helping his USA team to a 89-70 win over France. Showing amazing athleticism, terrific vision, sharp passing, a good shot all while playing lockdown defense, number 11 showed all of the qualities that would make him a sure fire star in Israel. Plus he was guarded man to man during parts of the first half but when he got free he was able to create and nail his shot.
Of course that shouldn’t be surprising since he began with the roundball at a very young age, “I started playing basketball pretty much since the day I was born. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t on a team and didn’t have a ball in my hand. My parents can be credited for that. My dad played serious basketball and so did my uncle playing in Division I. You can say that we are sort of a basketball family,” Lieberman said as his father beamed with pride sitting right next to us.
Jeremy had an illustrious high school career and spoke about his achievements as he began climbing the ladder of success, “I was very successful at Calabasas high school, I think I scored close to 2000 points, earned numerous championships and league MVP’s. I played for a great coach in Jon Palarz who had amazing pedigree. He really loved my game and embraced our relationship together. He also helped me become a good man in the sense teaching me on and off the court things.”
After finishing off his secondary school career, Lieberman was highly recruited by a number of colleges including St. Mary’s, Gonzaga and San Diego but settled on Wyoming, “I honestly committed a little early and I decided to go play with Larry Shyatt for the University of Wyoming Cowboys. I was excited to go play in the Mountain West Conference where I could showcase my talent and skills. Playing with Larry Nance Jr. was a big thing, being able to play with pros there was a huge influence in my decision. But recently I decided to transfer to California Baptist University and play for Coach Rick Croy, who recruited me pretty heavily when he was at St. Mary’s.”
Of course moving to a new University will push Lieberman to reach deep down and work even harder, “I’ll be on a strict schedule everyday with me and Clint (Parks) getting in the gym sometimes two or three times a day, just adding pieces to my game to make me even more versatile. Everyone knows I can shoot so it’s just about adding pieces, finishing close to the rim and adding a floater.”
One of the most important people in Lieberman’s life is his personal coach and trainer Clint Parks who accompanied the point guard and his family to Israel, “I met Clint about 7 years ago when I was going into 8th grade year and we just hit it off right off the bat. He saw something in me and I saw something in him and it became more of a big brother relationship more than anything. He has always been there for me and I could truly say without him, I would not be where I am today. He skyrocketed my basketball career.”
Parks pushed Lieberman right from the get go, “I remember times when I was in 8th grade and when all of my friends wanted to go and hang out and he’s outside saying no, we are going to the gym. I think those type of things set me apart from the rest of the competition, helping me grow as a man which has carried over to the court. I think his skill level as a trainer is also a bar above the rest.”
Many players may have trainers, but Parks is definitely someone very special and has been around the game of basketball for many, many years, “I graduated high school in 2006 and was going to junior college, but I always knew that I wasn’t going to make it to the NBA and I wanted to be around the game so I was just tried to think ahead. That was when I started my AAU program with my best friend. I was just trying to figure out how I could stay involved in the game, doing skill development stuff because I always felt that if I had someone to push me and genuinely care about me as not only a player but as a person, I could have gone a lot further.”
Parks can be credited with training some fine ball players but the key to his success is how he cares for them both on and off of the court, “Whether it’s college players or guys from the NBA, Kawhi Leonard from the Spurs, Tony Snell with the Bucks, first round pick Kyle Kuzma or Jeremy Lieberman it’s just great for them to grow up and have someone genuinely working and caring with them.”
Lieberman has been adding a number of skills to his arsenal of talent and with the he’ll of Parks he will be an even more rounded player at his new school, “During his last year at Wyoming he was considered by some in the conference to be the best on the ball defender in the league, defending guys the whole 94 feet. He went outside of his comfort zone and added a new element to his game. Now bring that back with his development and being fearless and always in attack mode along with his offensive abilities, he will be an unstoppable force who is able to score and defend.”
Reaching for a dream is also something that Parks would like to see Lieberman realize, “Like he told you, his dream is to be the starting point guard for Maccabi Tel Aviv one day. Some people might say that it’s hard, but it can be done. If people knew how hard he works and how much he sacrifices, then they wouldn’t think it’s as hard as they do. That’s why it’s a great opportunity for him to come here and play against professionals in a high-level competition.”
Coming to Israel and playing in the Maccabiah was a first, but Lieberman also participated in two other games, “I played in two Maccabiah games prior to this one. I played in the junior JCC games and two years ago I played in the European Maccabiah games, but this is the first time I’m at the biggest Maccabiah games in the world in Israel. I was just so eager to come and play. Coach Doug Gottlieb reached out to me and I went to the tryouts in Los Angeles, did my thing there and now I’m just excited to go and win a gold medal.”
Former Norte Dame and Oklahoma State point guard and current radio personality Doug Gottlieb is manning the sidelines for the USA and he brings a ton of experience, “The fact that he was a high level point guard is great. Being able to learn from a player like him and being Jewish and a point guard like myself obviously brings a lot to this tournament.”
So far the experience has been exceptional for Lieberman, especially being with other Jews from around the world, “Any time you get an opportunity to do something like this you have to take advantage of it. Two years ago, I played against guys from France, Russia and even the Israeli team. It’s pretty cool to see that there are other good Jewish players in this world playing all types of sports. From the chess team to table tennis it’s been a heart warming experience so far.”