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March 16, 1990 - Image 61

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-03-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



Short on experience and manpower but
long on desire, Akiva's capers find
there's no shortage of Goliaths out there.


Staff Writer


teve Greenfield was
having a day all ben-
chwarmers dream of:
shot after shot from
halfcourt was swishing
through the net.
But the crowd wasn't
cheering because there
wasn't one. Besides,
substitute Greenfield's shots
were connecting when they
shouldn't have: his team-
mates were looking for
"bricks," not baskets. They
needed rebounds off the
backboard to run offensive
patterns upcourt.
Welcome to basketball
practice at Akiva Hebrew
Day School, where:
• the state's only Or-
thodox day school with
Michigan High School
Athletic Association affilia-

tion has no varsity team be-
cause all the seniors are stu-
dying in Israel;
• basketball practice in
the gym once was followed
by a dog obedience school;
• practice comes a couple
times a week, if possible, but
always after 10 hours of
classes and before at least
two hours of homework;
• weekend games take a
backseat to Shabbat;
• and nine of the school's
10 eligible males play
Almost enough for a mi-
nyan, says Akiva coach
Moshe Rose.
"We may not be able to
daven, but at least we can
practice," smiles the kippah-
wearing, 23-year-old Akiva
alumnus who has been the
guiding light behind the
school's cage program
almost since it began five
years ago.

Rose gives his players last-minute instructions.

The Pioneers — the name
is the English adaptation of
Hechalutz, Akiva's yearbook
name — have never won
more than 10 games in a
year. With a $3,000 budget
for uniforms and tour-
naments, a small gym with
no room for bleachers and a
high school enrollment of 28
(more than half girls),
coaching Akiva is something
of a mission for its loyal,
young mentor. "If I wasn't
an alum, I wouldn't be
here," he says.
To do it, he juggles helping
run the family clothing store
while studying finance at
Wayne State University.
Next year, he will commute
to Ann Arbor for the Univer-
sity of Michigan's joint
MBA-law degree program.
"There's no other extra-
curricular activities at
Akiva for the boys to take
advantage of," says Rose,
adding there was no formal
sports program when he was
at Akiva. An avid basketball
fan who was something of a
gym rat as a prepster, the 6-
foot-1 Rose learned his
coaching from listening to
color commentators on tele-
vision and reading coaching
With no seniors available,
the Pioneers are a junior
varsity squad, which keeps
them from entering the
MHSAA state tournament
"The state meets are pret-
ty much senior varsity
tourneys," explains Rose.
"We could have entered the
Class D (student enrollment
255 and under) field this
year, but with only two 11th
graders on the team, we
would have gotten blown
Instead, Akiva was ready-
ing itself this week for its
season highlight: the Second
Annual Akiva Invitational
Basketball Tournament, a
four-team season-ending af-
fair that will begin Saturday
night at the Jewish Com-
munity Center's Maple-
Drake building and conclude
Sunday afternoon at the
Jimmy Prentis Morris JCC.
The tourney is all-JV, with
Akiva playing the Hebrew
Academy of Greater Wash-
ington, D.C., in the 9 p.m.
opener March 17 and Beth

Kirshner scores against Dayton, Ohio, Hillel.

T'filah of Baltimore, Md.,
playing the Community
Hebrew Academy of Toronto
(CHAT) at 10:30 that night.
The consolation game will
begin at 2 p.m. March 18
with the championship at
"This is our best chance
this year to compete against
evenly matched opponents"
even though CHAT has over
1,000 students, says Rose.
Last year, Akiva invited
Jewish senior varsity teams
from Chicago and suffered
for it. "We decided we're not
going to put ourselves at a
disadvantage in our own
tourney again," Rose notes.
"We've been trying to
build a program the last five
years, but we never can con-
trol the demographics" —
how many athletic
youngsters will enroll at
Akiva, for example, or
whether they'll stay, he
As a result, Rose often
scrambles to recruit players
each season. "We need at
least eight kids. You can't
have any kind of practice
with less than eight.
"That's why I'm really
proud of these kids this
year," he says of his squad,
which is 4-14 thus far.
"They're very cohesive, be-
cause they've been playing

together at least two sea-
s ons . There's no 'one
tremendous superstar' in the
bunch; they're just very
mature. They have had to
learn how to budget their
"They may not be the best
team talent-wise, but we had
bigger guys last year and I
feel this year's team could
have beaten other Akiva
teams. It's my most mature
Key players include junior
David Kirshner, 5-11, in his
second year at Akiva; junior
Danny Najman, 5-10, and
sophomores Jamie
Pearlberg, 5-7, and Tal Sha-
ron, 5-6. Pearlberg has
played two years at Akiva,
Sharon three. Kirshner
transferred to Akiva after
two years at Hillel Day
Basketball gives the
players an outlet for their
energies as well as a chance
to relax. In a typical day,
team members start school
at 7:30 a.m. and are in
classes until after 5 p.m.
They practice until 7 p.m.,
then head home for supper,
homework and sleep.
"Some nights, we just
cancel practice because the
kids are beat and they have
to study for a chemistry test
that night," says Rose.



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