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February 10, 1989 - Image 52

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-02-10

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Ancient Warriors

Middle-aged B'nai B'rith hoopsters show the young
upstarts how basketball is played.


Sports Writer


n the tradition of Detroit ath-
letic heroes such as Gordie
Howe, Al Kaline and Darrell
Evans, who were all strong
players well into, in sports
terms, old age, a local B'nai B'rith
basketball team has outshone
younger rivals throughout the '80s.

The Detroit I team has won the
B'nai B'rith A league regular season
or playoff title, or both; for the last
eight seasons, although all but one of
their players now range from 38 to
41-years-old. They are 1-1 in the new
season, which began in January.
"They're very competitive," says
Marty Melton, B'nai B'rith athletic
chairman, who runs the league.
"They play well together. They're
good playmakers. The basketball sav-
vy is on this team."
Detroit I is easily the oldest team
in the league. The youngest member,
28-year-old Greg Silberg, joined last
season. He says it was not hard to
blend in with his veteran teammates.
"It wasn't that difficult because they
know how to play basketball and
that's the important thing. They
know how to set the ball up and pass
the ball."
Silberg says that some other
teams in the league look "funny"
when compared with Detroit I
"because they throw the ball around
and wait for something to happen. We
play a good team game. We have our
shooters and we have our playmakers
and we have our defensive players.
And we all have roles. We do what we
can . . . These guys, they've been play-
ing for years and years together. I
think they've won the league since
1960 or something," only slightly ex-
aggerating Detroit I's degree of
The basketball league, in its 13th
year, began with eight teams. It now
A Detroit- I player battles three opponents to take a shot.
Bob McKeown
has 18 teams in three divisions, A, B
and C, with almost 200 players. Each uses paid referees from outside B'nai volleyball league
and spring softball
year, the last place teams in the A and B'rith.
B divisions drop down a notch, replac-
There is also a B'nai B'rith Youth
"Our basic theme in B'nai B'rith
ed by the first place teams in the B Organization league for 14-to-18-year-
is membership," says Melton, adding,
and C groups.
olds. Many of those players move up "People join B'nai B'rith for many
The games are played on Sunday to the adult league. "That's our minor reasons . . . A lot of people join for
mornings at Oakland Community league," says Melton, adding that the
athletics." Steve Rosen, an eight-
College's Orchard Ridge campus. The top BBYO players are often recruited
year veteran of Detroit I, is not wor-
games feature two, 20-minute halves by adult league teams when they are
ried by the team's early-season loss in
with a running clock until the final old enough to move up.
its second game. "We usually come
five minutes of each half. The league
B'nai B'rith also sponsors a fall out a little slow early in the season,



maybe lose a game or come close, then
really come on strong at the end. It
takes older guys a while to really get
into gear."
Fellow vet Steve Lesser call's the
6-foot-2 Rosen "an all-around player
. . . he's our legs. He's our rebounding.
He's our inside player."
Rosen says that Lesser, another
key player on the team, plays "heads-
up, great defense. He'll take the
toughest defensive assignment. And
he's a great outside shooter."
Other team members are Rick
and Joe Erlich, Roger Lesser, Mitch
Ribitwer and Mel Fink.
The starting lineup varies during
the season. Rick Erlich says he usual-
ly comes off the bench when the team
needs to pick up the tempo. "The
team plays best when we run. That's
what I think my role is, to get in there
and add to the fast break."
Erlich says the teams' strengths
are "we know the game well, we play
it well. We don't just run up and down
the court. What we do basically is set
it up and get it to our strength. We"
play good defense."
Point guard Roger Lesser is the
team's nominal coach. He runs the of-
fense with firm authority. "I'm the
one that barks out instructions," he
says. "Nobody listens."
Lesser describes himself as a
"non-shooter." But he says that
neither he nor any of his teammates
are concerned about who puts the ball
through the hoop.
"We play well together. No ego
problems. Nobody cares who scores as
long as our team scores. We pass the
ball around very well, take good shots
most of the time . . . we get along with
each other as people."
Youngster Silberg says, "I sup-
posedly bring youth to the team. But
it's not much youth. I think my legs
are older than theirs."
The nucleus of the team knew
each other from softball and basket-
ball leagues when they formed nine
years ago. Roger Lesser did not expect
to dominate the league as Detroit I
has. "We thought we'd be competitive.
We didn't know we'd be this com-
petitive. But by playing together so
much for so long, I think it helps us
in the close games."
Steve Lesser says he enjoys the
pressure-packed playoff games the
most "because those games mean the
most. It's after a long season. Usual-
ly the games are close because you

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