It seems as if it was just yesterday when the Ramaz Rams completed their Cinderella run to the Myhsal title game where they eventually defeated the top-seeded SAR Sting for their first championship since 2010. A new season is now among us with new faces and superstars on the rise, but who will be on the final stage in March at Yeshiva University looking to be crowned Yeshiva League champions?
Last year's champion, the Ramaz Rams, were heavily dependent on their senior leaders to provide scoring bursts and defensive takedowns, but now are back to the drawing boards with an entirely new roster filled with much potential. Senior Sam Ostad will be tasked with leading the way along with a very talented underclass group headlined by forward Milan Kushner who proved to be a star on the junior varsity level. The Rams will be led by veteran Yeshiva League Coach Scott Ferguson, who will undoubtedly guide this team to be no easy defeat with hopes for playoff action once again.
Similar to the Ramaz Rams, the TABC Storm were a senior heavy team last year who went a very respectable playoff run, unfortunately losing to the SAR Sting by a mere two points in the semi-finals. Their one returning starter is Netanel Benloulu, who proved to be a premier talent as a junior, but now he will need to get it done with a new set of teammates on the court. The Storm always have a great atmosphere on their home court, with a consistent fan overload which will make for an exciting season for the Storm.
The Frisch Cougars are another team which will guarantee to provide excitement on any given night. They will be led by senior Alex Zakheim who has been a regular on the Yeshiva League Pass highlight reel since he was in junior varsity with his killer handles and high-flying abilities. His backcourt-mate is another shifty senior guard, Isaac Schiffman. The x-factor of this team will be the success of their big men, who will be responsible for creating opportunities for Zakheim and Schiffman to attack the paint offensively, as well being anchors on the defensive end of the court.
After a devastating loss in last year’s championship, the SAR Sting enter this season with a chip on their shoulders and high aspirations. Guard Akiva Schanzer will be the focal point of their offense for the second consecutive season. After a summer winning gold with Maccabi in Israel, he will definitely bring that winning mentality to the Sting locker room. Along with Schanzer, are several familiar faces from last year's team including swingmen Andrew Helft and Itai Berkwoitz. Benny Neuwirth will be crucial to the Sting’s success, he’s shown to be a crafty passer and facilitator when the ball is not in Schanzer’s hands. When the playoffs arrive, don't be surprised if the Sting have a home court advantage.
A team eager for success this season will be the Hillel Heat. In addition to their usual advantage of being a far drive for any opponent, the Heat have returning senior Ellliot Braha, who is often dubbed as the “Kevin Durant of the Yeshiva League”. Braha is capable of scoring from all three levels with ease, as he showed on multiple occasions last season. Junior Moses Smeke played a key role on last year's team and will likely be Braha's right hand man this season. Look out for the Hillel Heat to make a playoff push this season.
Nothing beats playing at Yeshiva University for all seven regular season home games, which is an advantage the MTA Lions have. WIth the exception of senior guards Gavriel Rudman and Ezra Halpert, the Lions are filled with entirely new faces who are eager to get their first exposure to varsity basketball. The Lions are filled with plenty of senior depth and height which will prove to be crucial down the stretch as the season goes on.
The Jec Thunder are a team that could potentially take the league by storm this year. After a strong showing in the Magen David preseason invitational, the Thunder displayed the versatility of their lineup with multiple big-men who both control the paint as well as stretch beyond the arc to expand their “offensive bag”. Senior guard Yosef Heller is a pure scorer who can heat up quickly and change the momentum of any game.
Three teams in a similar category are the Heschel Heat, Kushner Cobras and Ohr Yisroel Flames. After rough seasons last year, these three rosters are determined to position themselves in a way where they can reach the playoffs and make a deep run.
This season it is nearly impossible to pick a favorite from the Western Conference of MYHSAL. Stay tuned for an Eastern Conference preview coming next week! With so many great teams and potential, this season is destined to be the best one yet.