Boys Basketball: Chicago 14-U team claims gold at Maccabi Games
Updated: September 24, 2012 7:13AM
Banding together in a relatively short amount of time, the Chicago 14-U boys basketball team emerged from the 2012 JCC Maccabi Games with a gold medal.
The Chicago contingent — half of which hails from Deerfield High School — rolled through the 16-team field, culminating in a 67-59 victory over LA Westside Black in the championship game. The Maccabi Games were held in Houston Aug. 5-10.
“It’s not a full season — it’s one week throughout the summer,” said Chicago coach Josh Soloff, a 2003 Deerfield graduate. “We practice once a week before summer begins, and then we pick it up and practice every single day as we approach the actual Games.”
This year’s event marked Soloff’s third straight stint as the Chicago 14s coach; the team claimed silver in 2010 and ’11.
“This year, they all bought into the program: trust one another, and have faith in the offense and defense we run,” he said. “Plus, open communication — the chemistry was really evident. And the group of boys we had — all high-level, character players. They really were on the same page.”
Chicago reached the title tilt with a 51-25 clobbering of Columbus on Aug. 9, after obliterating Austin 65-10 in the semifinals a day prior. The eventual champs began pool play with a 72-28 spanking of San Diego on Aug. 6, followed by a 62-19 win over Baltimore the next day.
Soloff, who described the Maccabi Games as, “more or less like a Junior Olympics for Jewish youth,” also said the event brings more to the table than sports alone.
“It’s an unbelievable experience for all these boys … delegations from all across the country, and other places from all over the world,” he said. “It’s a cultural experience as well as a sports experience.”
That included a visit to a YMCA-style day camp, during which Chicago players interacted with disadvantaged youngsters. Soloff said that one particulary shy kid instantly warmed up to Chicago player Jordan Baum (Deerfield).
“And then he was hanging all over Jordan — a complete transformation,” Soloff added. “It was really special to see something like that. ”
Soloff described Baum as, “one of the best players I’ve had the pleasure of coaching — a natural leader. He was the glue of our team … very much the engine.”
The team’s roster included fellow Deerfield products Ross Agins, Jordan Sherman and Alec Rabin — as well as Alex Rothschild (New Trier), Jonathan Simon (Glenbrook North) and Benjy Salzman (Chicago Jewish High School).
“I couldn’t be more proud of the boys,” Soloff concluded. “It was a special experience for me, and it was a lot of fun. As a whole, the boys were ecstatic, with their heads held high to bring gold back to Chicago.”