The annual Cooper Yeshiva High School National Invitational Tournament, hosted by the Margolin Hebrew Academy/Feinstone Yeshiva of the South in Memphis, Tennessee, took place this past weekend. The Cooper Invitational has become one of the largest Jewish high-school athletic events in North America. Featuring 16 of the top Jewish high-school varsity basketball teams from across the country, the event, culminating in Championship Sunday, crowned a national champion and a tier II champion from one of the most competitive invitational fields in the country.
Founded in 2007 by Memphian Josh Kahane, the event serves as an opportunity for Jewish teams from across the country to not only compete in a high-level basketball event but also to provide a venue for the player athletes to meet, develop friendships with, and learn from their counterparts in schools across North America. For many schools, the event has become both the athletic and extracurricular highlight of the academic year.
“We are so proud of this event’s growth, not only in size, but in prominence,” commented Josh Kahane, tournament founder and director. “With 16 participating schools, nearly 400 out-of-town guests, 50,000 viewers of our live game broadcast, and over 60,000 hits on our website, we have created something truly remarkable and, in every sense, national. But what is most rewarding and what perhaps makes this event distinct from any other, is that we have accomplished all of this within the framework of a meaningful and inspiring Shabbaton, with programming that both excites and inspires each and every athlete. To some degree the excitement and camaraderie created throughout the event off the court matches, if not even exceeds, that which takes place each day on it.”
All 32 games of the Cooper Invitational are broadcast live, via a five-camera HD webcast. Play-by-play and color broadcasting are provided by experienced announcers. Nearly 50 hours of broadcast time is aired during the Cooper Invitational and well over 50,000 viewers have historically tuned in.
Players, coaches, and chaperones stay as guests in the DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton. Shabbat provides the opportunity to take a break from competition and join the Memphis Jewish community for time filled with engaging programming, interesting learning activities, camaraderie, and plenty of time for players to meet and develop friendships with one another. On Friday night, the student athletes are hosted for Shabbat dinner in the homes of community members and then rejoin together for learning at the Invitational’s Friday-night oneg. On Shabbat day, student athletes from all of the participating teams lead the religious services and deliver divrei Torah.
The Cooper Invitational web-HQ at cooperinvitational.com provides up-to-date scores, news feeds, and scheduling leading up to, and throughout, the event weekend.
Author’s note: I was privileged to bring my team to this tournament. I recall a previous odyssey which lasted longer due to Superstorm Sandy. This tournament is first-class and all participants are treated with unmatched Southern hospitality, which we felt from the moment we landed at the airport in Memphis, throughout the tournament games and special events, as well as a meaningful Shabbos.
This year’s tournament Tier 1 championship featured two local yeshivas from Brooklyn. The MDY Warriors faced off against the Shaare Torah Stars. The Warriors started down early and were clawing back and forth with the Swaid brothers and Jackie Haber (the three leading scorers of the tournament entering the game). The Warriors were down 11–10 after one quarter.
In the second quarter, both offenses came out firing as they traded baskets back and forth. The Stars got into foul trouble and the Warriors took advantage. They pushed the pace and got to the line. The Warriors led 34–29 at the half.
The second half began and the Warriors’ defense started causing turnovers, which the Warriors converted into easy baskets. Albert Nsiri and Eli Nachmias led the Warriors on the fast break. The Warriors led 61–39 at the end of third quarter.
The Warriors were putting the finishing touches on the game and iced the game at the line. Albert Nsiri went 12–14 from the line and helped the Warriors complete their quest as repeat champions. The final score was 68–49.
Nsiri finished with a game high 22 points and had seven rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Elliott Dweck and Eli Nachmias each had 12 points. Freddy Louz led the Stars with 13 points.The Warriors are now 9–0 overall and 2–0 in league play.
Judah Rhine, who has been coaching youth basketball for more than 35 years, is co-director of MVP Boys Basketball Camp and MVP Girls Basketball Camp and co‑commissioner of the National Council of Young Israel basketball league. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.