Memphis Yeshiva Invitational



By: Shmuel Perl


I thought long and hard about going back to Memphis, Tennessee for the Cooper
Invitational. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to fly in from where I live in Philadelphia and miss school
today work for just another basketball tournament. With only four weeks until the start of the
tournament it looked like I would be missing the first Cooper Invitational of my life. But then
things changed. Josh Kahane asked me if I wanted to go back as a reporter for the Tournament
for the fifth straight year. Initially I said no, but then I started thinking. Do I really want to miss
one of the most exciting events of the year? Do I really want to stay home while sixteen highly
talented teams battle it out in an entertaining fashion? Was I willing to wait all the way until
March Madness to get excited about brackets, sleepers, and upsets? My answer was a resounding
no. No, I was not willing to stay home this year because I realized that the Cooper Invitational is
not just another basketball tournament, it’s an experience; an experience that I only have the
opportunity to take part in once a year. Once that thought crossed my mind, I knew that nothing
would stop me from making it to Memphis for this year’s Cooper Invitational. Not school, not
American Airlines trying to rip me off by initially charging me $600 dollars for a two hour flight,
and certainly not the lazy, boring, no room for excitement attitude that caused me to even
consider missing Cooper IX. So with that in mind, and all the hesitation out of my system, I am
excited to bring to you the second edition of the Cooper Invitational Tournament Preview. Now,
I would like to take a second to pat myself on the back for doing a particularly excellent job on
last year’s predictions. Probably my best call was predicting that HAFTR would lose to my
school, Kohelet, in the first round. Since we all know how terrible HAFTR was in last year’s
tournament, I will spare you the expense of talking about their disappointing season. My Kings
on the other hand, apparently scared I would once again set way too high expectations for them,
chose not to return to Cooper and instead will be enjoying a weekend full of homework and
college applications while I party it up in Memphis. On a slightly more serious note, I did have
some actual good calls which may give you enough reason to trust me when you fill out your
brackets this year. (For those of you who want to read through my preview from last year you
can find it at
LpOS_PJC2gOr8/pub). By this point most of you have probably skipped ahead to the part of this article
where I actually do some real analysis, so I guess I’ll do the same.

#1 Davis Renov Stahler Yeshiva High School (DRS) WILDCATS

Breakdown: DRS makes its first appearance in the Cooper Invitational after a very
successful season in which the Wildcats went 11-3 in the Yeshiva League’s Eastern Division and
lost a heartbreaking championship game to last year’s most dominant team, the HAFTR Hawks.
DRS’s great season earned them the #2 seed in last year’s YU Sarachek tournament, in which
they finished fourth after being upset by both Frisch and YULA. DRS has gotten off to a
tremendous start this season, defeating HANC, Frisch, TABC, and SAR en route to a victory in
the 2015 Magen David Preseason Tournament. The Wildcats followed that up with a 42-38 win
over another strong Yeshiva League team, the Flatbush Falcons. Led by rookie coach Avrum
Stein, DRS is a title hungry team to who will no longer settle for second place. This team is led
by their dynamic seniors, returning three of their leading scorers from last year. The Wildcats
can hurt teams from all areas of the court, as they are led by talented point guard Yoav Deutsch,
and a collection big, athletic forwards who can take over games.

X-Factors: Two words: Gabriel Leifer. That’s about all you need to know with this team.
Well not really, but the 6’4 Senior Forward is an absolute monster. As a Junior he dominated
teams with his combination of size, strength, and versatility and even put up an impressive 17
points and 10 rebounds a game at Sarachek. Leifer spent the summer working on his game, and
came back better than ever. The Pre-Season Jewish Hoops National Player of the Year solidified
his status as the best Yeshiva basketball player in the country by leading his team to a win in the
MDY Pre-Season tournament, during which he scored an astounding 37 points in a game against
TABC. Leifer, although not much of an outside threat, is impossible to stop inside and like Shaq,
either you foul him or he scores. Unlike Shaq, he shoots a solid percentage from the line, so
don’t look for Hack-A-Leifer to take off during this year’s tournament. If this guy gets going,
DRS is absolutely impossible to stop. One potential matchup to look forward to is the possibility
of Leifer facing his former teammate, and talented big man in his own right, Abie Perlow. If
DRS and HAFTR meet, look out for an entertaining battle down low.

Prediction: By far the most entertaining game of the year is the 1-16 showdown on
opening day. The Wildcats matchup with AJA Jaguars figures to be by far their hardest game of
the tournament. Although, I do believe that DRS is slightly more talented and will find a way to
pull off this win. Once they have solidified their place in Tier I, the road will not get any easier.
In their second game they will face the winner of the YHS-CJ game. (Spoiler Alert: I’m going
with YHS). Yeshiva High School (which has usurped the school formerly known as the New
Community Jewish High School for the title of most original school name) has proven to be
feisty in the past, and will not be a walk in a park for the tournament favorites. However, like the
AJA game they should be able to escape by a slim margin and advance to the semifinals. There
they will have to face a team that I believe is actually the second most talented squad in this
year’s tournament, the RASG Warriors. This game should be extremely entertaining and will
feature some of Cooper XI’s best players. However, DRS’s depth will win out in a game that is
sure to be long and exhausting and the Wildcats will make it all the way to the championship in
their tourney debut. (Championship predictions are at the bottom).

#2 Yeshiva University of Los Angeles (YULA) PANTHERS

Breakdown: The YULA Panthers are making their sixth straight appearance in the
Cooper Invitational, and have had by far the most success out of any participant in the
tournament’s history. Although last year was supposed to be an off year for the tournament, they
fared better than expected in both the Cooper and Sarachek tournaments last year, including a
marquis win over DRS in New York. The Panthers also managed a 14-10 record and a second
place finish in the competitive Liberty league. Unfortunately, the Panthers lost the best inside out
combination on the west coast, when Daniel Tzion and Motti Zilberstein graduated last year.
They do return some players from last year’s talented team, and while their offense may fall off a
little bit, their defense should be impeccable. Coach Eli Hami is one of the best in Yeshiva High
School world and will be bringing a smart, disciplined group of players that knows how to win
big games. YULA will look for new leaders to step up and fill the shoes of those who graduated
in order for the Panthers to bring the championship trophy back to LA for this first time since

X-Factor: YULA’s chances of winning the tournament will rely heavily on their ability
to shoot from long range. Marksmen Daniel Hami and Yair Isaacs will need to get hot early and
often to allow this team to really compete. If the Panthers can shoot consistently from downtown
it will open up their low post game that features junior forward Alan Gindi and senior center
Shimon Benarroch. With defenses spaced out these guys will look to go to work in the paint and
provide YULA with plenty of easy buckets. The 6’3 Benarroch is also a rebounding force inside
and will look to give the Panther shooters a multitude of second chance points. The key to
beating this team will be not letting them get open on the perimeter and limiting their ability to
rebound inside.

Predictions: I believe strongly in YULA’s talent, I just don’t believe so much in their
experience. Although the Panthers have always managed to survive the number one enemy of
High School teams across the country, graduation, and have churned out super talented teams
year after year, something tells me they are due for a regression. I was not so bullish on this team
last year, and I paid for it, but I’m sticking to my guns and saying YULA will not make it to the
championship. Although they should have no problem getting through Akiva in their first game,
I think the Panthers run will end on Friday. This team has all the makings of a team ready to be
upset, (pretty much what I said about HAFTR last year) and the only way they’ll be able to make
it to the semis is if someone, like Hami or Gindi, really steps it up. That being said, I still think
they will finish the tournament strong and win their final two games on the way to a fifth place

#3 Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) HAWKS

Breakdown: The defending champs come back to Cooper with as many losses so far
(one), as they had in their entire season last year. Although they return many key pieces from
their historically great team last year, it seems like the 2015 Hawks just aren’t quite at the same
level. Fresh off a loss to SAR in the quarterfinals of the Magen David preseason tournament,
HAFTR does not seem like they can recreate the magic of a team that had a 14-0 regular season
record, won the Yeshiva League Championship, and lost in thrilling fashion to the Frisch
Cougars. The Hawks also lose last year’s Tier I Most Outstanding Player, the do-it-all forward
Jonathan Greenberg, but do return most of the core from last year’s team. A big factor for
HAFTR is the extent of guard Sammy Mandel’s injury. Mandel, who is deadly from long range
and can swing games in a heartbeat, will be sorely missed if he is unable to play. Fortunately for
Coach Joe Hoenig, this HAFTR team can absorb the hit and will undoubtedly have a successful
run in the tournament. The Hawks have been there before, and will not be phased in big games.
X-Factors: For HAFTR it’s all about the big boys inside, 6’4 Abie Perlow and 6’1 Max
Rosner. Perlow is nearly impossible to defend in the post and uses his awesome athleticism to
find nearly anyway to score. He is also a talented passer out of the post and will look to set up
guys, as well as finding his own. Perlow anchors the HAFTR defense by swatting any shots that
come near him, and pulling down every rebound in site. He will be a force to reckoned with on
both sides of the court and will compete with Gabe Leifer for the title of most talented big man
in the tournament. Rosner, is an adept offensive player with a talent for making tough buckets
and a sweet jumper. This guy has secretly scary range and is not afraid to shoot the occasional
three pointer. If HAFTR can run their offense through the post, which they will look to do as
much as possible, the Hawks are as good as any team in the country. Opponents must be careful
to deny the entry passes and double Perlow or Rosner every time they get the ball or else they’ll
end up on their backs with the ball in the basket. If these big men can get going it will open up
HAFTR’s perimeter game and will allow guards Brian Nathan and Mandel, if he can play, to
shoot threes and get penetration.

Prediction: So the count for amount times I’ve mentioned my terrible HAFTR to lose to
Kohelet call from last year must be at forty by now, but I won’t spend any more of your time
talking about my big mistake. Now, for this year I think I have a little bit of a better sense of this
Hawks team having seen a lot of them play in last year’s tournament. With that in mind, I do
expect a strong finish from this team. They should be able to roll over the team from Toronto, Or
Chaim, in their first game and will most likely play the hometown Cooper Macs in their second
game. (Warning: All Memphians reading this please skip the next few lines). While Cooper has
its most talented team in a really long time, the Hawks should be too much for Cooper to handle.
The Macs have no one who has the size and strength, to battle with the HAFTR bigs down low
and the Hawks will ride their best player, Abie Perlow to the semis. It is at this point in the my
prediction making that things get a little complicated. If Sammy Mandel plays I think that
HAFTR can make it to the championship for the second straight year, but if their star point guard
is in any way limited this might not be HAFTR’s year. I expect them to lose in the semifinals to
my sleeper of the tournament, the Flatbush Falcons, and finish off the weekend in third place.
Although this team has championship aspirations, and probably could repeat if they played really
well, I don’t think this is the year of the Hawk.

#4 Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy (RASG) WARRIORS)

Breakdown: These Warriors are absolutely nothing like the RASG team that finished
sixth in Tier I last year. They lost their top two scorers, Penn Signee Morris Esformes (19.8 PPG)
and Chad Masin (17.9 PPG) to graduation, and return only one layer from last year’s team, big
man Michael Bixon (6.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG). While the 2014-15 was very successful, finishing 13-7
and also claiming fifth place in Sarachek, this year’s team looks to be even more talented with a
roster that has been revamped with young players and transfers. Led by coach Scott Berman, the
Warriors can flat out score and will absolutely demolish teams who have holes defensively.
RASG has not gotten to the Tier I semifinals since 2012 when, as a ten seed, they broke people’s
brackets and hearts en route to a third place finish. While Danny Abramowitz has been long
gone, and no player remains from that cinderella-story team, the Warriors hope to recreate the
magic of ‘12 in Cooper IX. However, this team is really young and a their lack of experience
could lead to their downfall. Additionally, with only eight players on the roster, RASG’s lack of
depth could become a significant obstacle if they are hoping to leave Memphis with a

X-Factors: According to the Miami Herald, Ben Tal was considered one of the top
players on the Mourning High School Sharks in 2014-15. While only a sophomore, the combo
guard was lighting up North Miami with his playmaking ability. Transferring to RASG for his
Junior Season, the talented guard looks to make his debut on the Yeshiva High School stage at
the Cooper Tournament. Tal is joined in the backcourt by Freshman phenom Salomone
Rosenthal. While only an eighth grader, Rosenthal played for the Warriors’ JV team and
destroyed the competition. The tall lanky guard showed off his combination of moves and
outside shooting and was even good enough to get his own mixtape.
( Rosenthal can shoot the lights out of the
gym, and his youth should not prevent any defenders from taking him seriously. The third
member of RASG’s all star backcourt is 6’5 guard-forward Jack Esformes. Much like Rosenthal,
Esformes has can to get to the rim, has tremendous court-vision, and deadly shooting that will
make any defender cringe. Oh, and he’s got his own mixtape too.
( Although they don’t have much
experience together, these three phenomenal athletes will make the Warrior’s offense incredibly
hard to stop. If they can figure out how to play with each other, there is no telling the insane
numbers that these guys can put up.

Prediction: This will finally be the year the Warriors get back to the semifinals. Their
path their will not be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but the offensive talent that the
Warriors have will propel them to the prime time game on Saturday night. Their opening game
against Fasman should not be much of a contest, but they will most likely have to face a very
talented JDS team in their second game. If they can get beat the Lions, which I think they can do,
they will be poised for a matchup with the best team in this tournament, DRS. The Warriors
came within two points of knocking off the #1 seed last year, and I expect that the DRS-RASG
game will go down in history as one of the greatest games in tournament history. However, the
Warriors will once again fall to the best team, and will take their talents back to South Beach
with a fourth place finish.

#5 Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (JDS) LIONS

Breakdown: The JDS lions are not your typical Jewish High School basketball team that.
This team finishes strong year in and year out in the ultra-competitive Potomac Valley League,
and is always a dominant force in the greater DC area. Last year the Lions had a great year
finishing second in their league with an overall record of 17-4. The Lions, led by longtime coach
David McCloud, return 90% of their scoring from last year and with one more season’s worth of
experience under their belt they are poised for a great run. Although they disappointed in last
year’s tournament, they were without some of their best players, and should have a bounce back
year in 2015. Unfortunately, the Lions will not have an easy schedule on their way to a
championship. For JDS to make to the championship they will likely have to get through ultratalented
teams in #4 RASG and #1 DRS. Luckily, they are one of the few teams in the
tournament that truly has the size to compete with Yeshiva League powerhouses DRS and
HAFTR. Although they’ll likely ride their outside shooting hard, it will be the defensive play
inside that will likely be the factor that determines how far this team goes.

X-Factors: JDS can absolutely drain threes. Boasting one of the best long range teams in
this tournament, the Lions will count on a pair of Juniors, 6’3 Nadav Kalendar and 5’6 Danny
Kuhnreich. Kalendar, who uses his tremendous size to shoot over smaller defenders, scored 45%
of his made field goals from behind the three point line. Although, not much of an inside
presence and a less than stellar free throw shooter, Kalendar is always a threat from downtown.
Kuhnreich, on the other hand, was more of an all around threat, averaging 16.3 points per game
in 19 appearances last year. However, Kuhnreich particularly excels at long range shooting,
leading the team with 31 made three pointers last season. Kuhnreich can make almost any shot,
regardless of whether a defender has a hand in his face or not. The only way to stop the Lions
number one long range threat is to prevent him from getting the ball. However, the extra
attention that Kuhnreich and Kalendar will attract, will open up the floor for JDS’s floor general,
6’2 Junior, Bryan Knapp. Knapp, who last year led the Lions in points, rebounds, assists, steals,
and blocks, while only a sophomore, is already getting attention from D-I schools. Knapp may be
one the most talented players in the Jewish High School basketball world because of his
combination of size, skill, and passing ability. Knapp will look to drive the ball into the paint and
do one three things: kick it out to open shooters, finish at the rim, or draw a foul. Unfortunately
for defenses, Knapp excels at all three. An excellent finisher, Knapp also shot 79% from the line
and averaged 2.7 assists per game. If Knapp can get penetration, it will surely open up the floor
for JDS’s aforementioned sharpshooters. The only question for defenses is what will they choose
to take away, and to beat the Lions teams will have to hope that their offenses can score enough
points to eke out a victory.

Prediction: I really wanted this to be my big first round upset. I was going to go out on a
limb and predict the de Toledo Jaguars to beat this seemingly great JDS team. I thought to
myself the Lions weren’t so good in last year’s tournament and they probably lost a few seniors,
so there is no way they got better. Then I remembered two things: JDS relied solely on
underclassmen last year to put up points and star guard Bryan Knapp did not come to last year’s
tournament. I then realized that not only was the team from JDS not worse this year, but in fact
they are much better. So I decided that maybe a first round full of chalk would not be so bad.
However, I do still believe that the first round matchup with de Toledo will be a tough one for
the Lions and I expect it to be a relatively close game. Like I said, I think the Lions will survive
and advance to what projects to be a very entertaining matchup with RASG. In this game the
threes will be flying and whoever’s defense can step up and contain the other team will win. I do
give the Warriors the slight edge, but don’t count JDS out. They are a sneaky good team, and if
they can survive a tough slate of early games has championship potential.

#6 Cooper Yeshiva MACS

Breakdown: The Macs are looking at their highest ranking since the tournament field
expanded to sixteen teams, and hometown fans have never had higher expectations. It’s finally
time for Cooper to compete on a national stage and first year Coach James Nokes fully intends
for his disciplined group of guys to show that they know how to play. Fresh off a disappointing
season in which Cooper was embarrassed in their own tournament by finishing in 14th place, the
Macs look to bounce back and finally give their fans a performance they can be proud of.
Although the Macs don’t lack in homegrown talent, their excellent recruiting has landed them
stars from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Denver Colorado and Seattle, Washington. With the loss
of team leader and defensive monster, Yonatan Cooper, and an injury to Senior Forward David
Silbermann, the young stars on this Cooper team will have to step up. With a roster that includes
nine Juniors and one Sophomore, it will be up to Coach Nokes to whip his inexperienced group
into shape. Luckily for the Macs, the saying “Nokes gets results” often rings true. One of the up
and coming stars in the High School Basketball coaching world, Coach Nokes will almost
certainly get the most out of this team and push them to play their absolute best. Utilizing a
stifling man to man defense, the Macs will be able to shut down any team that comes their way,
regardless of their offensive firepower. The Macs are desperately hoping to bring home the
championship to Memphis, and end the drought that has lasted since 2008. Fortunately, this may
finally be the year as the Macs are as talented as ever and with excellent coaching are as
dangerous as any team in this tournament.

X-Factors: DRS has got Gabe Leifer, HAFTR has Abie Perlow, JDS has Bryan Knapp,
and Cooper has Jeffrey Owen. The 6’2 Junior guard definitely deserves to be mentioned in the
same sentence as the tournament’s top players. Owen, who recently transferred to Cooper from
Northwest Yeshiva High School in Seattle, Washington, scored 25.6 points per game last year
and led his team to an 18-7 overall record and a 9-1 record in the 1B SeaTac District which tied
for first place. Owen is absolutely unguardable and excels at driving to the hoop and drawing
contact. Owen got to the line an absurd 108 times last year and with a 72% free throw percentage
guaranteed his team points every time he touched the ball. Owen also excelled on the defensive
side of the ball, averaging 3.3 steals and 4.9 defensive rebounds per game. The tremendously
talented power guard has been a huge addition for Cooper, and his combination of size and
scoring ability has drawn comparisons to another Memphis product, Penny Hardaway. However,
Owen will have to make a big adjustment coming to a new team with an emphasis on sharing the
ball. Owen’s passing ability was not his strength last year, he averaged only 1.6 assists per game,
and must transition from a team in which he scored 45% of all field goals to one that boasts a
plethora of talent at other positions. It will be up to Owen to elude the double teams that he will
surely face, and find his teammates such as 6’3 forward, Caleb Milobsky and 5’7 sharpshooting
guard, Mark Fertel. Milobsky, who can throwdown with ease, will look to use his combination of
athleticism and shooting to outmaneuver larger traditional big men. Fertel adds shooting to a
team that has plenty of guys looking to penetrate, including 5’10 guard JJ Kampf. If this team
can space the ball well, get the penetration it’s looking for, and play solid defense, they will be
hard to stop.

Breakdown: In the first game, the Macs will be matched up with the North Shore Stars
for the third time in the history of the tournament. Cooper has had North Shore’s number in the
past, upsetting them in both 2009 and 2011. This time the roles are reversed and it will be the
#11 Stars who will be looking to upset the Macs. From the looks of it, the Stars will not be able
to knock off the hometown favorites early, and Cooper’s championship dreams will stay alive at
least until Friday. However, their title hopes will likely run into a brick wall, in the form of
HAFTR’s Abie Perlow, in the tournament’s second day. HAFTR is just too good for this upstart
and although they will surely give the Hawks a great game, it looks like the Macs will miss out
on the semis for the seventh straight year. The Macs, who abide by Coach Nokes’s of philosophy
of looking at everything one game at a time, will still look to finish strong despite their
championship hopes being dashed. That being said I believe they will deliver a decent showing
in the second half of the tournament and finish a respectable seventh. Although I’m sure that the
Cooper fans have hopes of winning it all, they should be comforted by the fact this team will lose
no significant contributors next year. With one year in the new system under their belt, look out
for the Macs to do some serious damage in the tenth edition of the Cooper Invitational

#7 Yeshiva of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School FALCONS

Breakdown: Last year’s Flatbush Falcons Varsity basketball team were not what you
call particularly good. They stumbled to a disappointing 4-10 record in the Yeshiva League, and
barely resembled the team that won the Tier II championship at Cooper VII. Deciding to part
ways with former Head Coach Avi Borenstein, the Falcons were hoping for a much improved
year under new coach Michael Gurock who has previously been an assistant at Ramaz and YU.
In his first year as a head coach, Gurock takes over a team that is absolutely loaded with talent.
With key contributors from the Flatbush JV team that went 10-0 in regular season play last year,
this looks to be totally different season for the boys from Brooklyn. Unfortunately, the Falcons
got off a disappointing start in which they fell to the YDE Thunder in the Magen David
Preseason Tournament. However, Flatbush quickly bounced back with a win over MTA and a
close defeat to Yeshiva League favorites, DRS. The Falcons were able to keep pace with
Wildcats high powered attack, and their pressure defense actually powered them to a ten point
lead at halftime. Unfortunately, their inexperience showed and this really young team blew its
lead and eventually lost 42-38. If Flatbush can be the team that controlled the game against one
of the best teams in the country by hitting threes and forcing turnovers, they will be able to
compete with any team in Cooper XI. Ultimately, it will be test of their endurance and discipline,
but if they are able to finish games they will surely be in the mix come Championship Sunday.

X-Factors: Flatbush’s best player is arguably their 6’3 Junior power forward, Abie
Rosow. He brings to the court a combination of power and finesse that most big men lack.
Rosow can bang with the big guys inside, hit cutting teammates with beautiful passes, and also
step outside for the occasional three. It will be Rosow’s first time performing on a national stage
at the varsity level, but this talented team will not have to rely solely on the ability of its star
forward. A suffocating pressure defense employed by this Falcons defense will force tons of
turnovers and allow Flatbush to get out on the break and make easy baskets. Led by lightning
quick guards Elliot Beyda and Kevin Haddad, this team can go coast to coast for a steal and a
layup in a matter of seconds. The heart of their defense is team captain and Senior Forward
Albert Richter, whose hustle and smart play makes an impact beyond what traditional stats can
account for. With their offense running through Rosow, who will look for shooters like Haddad
and Beyda on the Perimeter, and their defense led by Richter, this Falcons team has
extraordinary potential. Additionally, Flatbush possesses great depth and guys like Joe Cayre and
Louis Zarif, who is also a tremendous shooter, will provide the Falcons with a spark off the

Prediction: The Falcons are my sleeper pick for 2015. I really like what this team is
made of and I think their performance against DRS shows that they can go head to head with the
best teams. Unfortunately, the Falcons, being the #7 seed, must overcome a really hard schedule
to make it to the finals. Their first game will feature a matchup with Scheck Hillel, who is also a
pretty talented team and should give the Falcons a run for their money. The real test for this
unproven group will likely come Friday when they face a very similar team in the YULA
Panthers. Both teams like to pressure the ball, are quick, and will rely on their outside shooting.
Therefore, it will probably come down to the simple fact of who is more talented. In that regard I
give the narrow edge to Flatbush, and I think they have a very real chance of upsetting the
YULA Panthers and advancing to the semis. There they will have a really tough matchup with a
big, strong HAFTR team. So far this year their achilles heel has been their ability to guard the
post, and that will surely be a problem against HAFTR. On the other hand, if Flatbush can
control the pace and make this a run and gun game, then the effectiveness of HAFTR’s bigs will
certainly be limited. Additionally, if the Hawks are without point guard Sammy Mandel for this
game, the Falcons will be able to pressure HAFTR into coughing up lots of turnovers. It will
then simply be a matter of can Flatbush convert on the many offensive opportunities they are
likely to come by and if so they have a very real chance of winning this game. Like I said earlier,
my prediction relies heavily on whether or not Sammy Mandel can play, but because his
situation remains in doubt I am forced to pick the Falcons to get their second straight upset. The
Falcons will then be set for a rematch with DRS, and a chance to get revenge for their earlier
loss. (Championship predictions are at the bottom).

#8 Yeshiva High School STORM

Breakdown: The school formerly known as Weinbaum Yeshiva High School had an up
and down year last year. Although they started the year with a bang with a defeat of #4
Chicagoland Jewish High School and an eventual eighth place finish in Tier I, the team stumbled
to a 6-8 record and was not playing up to expectations. Despite the rocky season, the Storm
received a #10 at Sarachek and ended the year on a high note with a Tier III championship.
Despite losing star forward Bryant Feintuch and Sarachek Tier II MVP Jacob Danis, this team
returns four key contributors from last year’s team. Although the core remains mostly the same,
the Storm brought in a new head coach that may alter the team’s prospects for the coming year.
Coach Bryan White, who last year led the St. thomas Aquinas High to an 18-9 record and a
district championship in his first year as a head coach, comes to YHS with plenty of experience
and a knack for getting the most out of his players. Although only 30, White has already been an
assistant coach at Lehigh University and has also been on the staff of legendary STAHS coach,
Steven Strand. White hopes to bring the lessons he learned from basketball’s greats to the world
of Yeshiva basketball. While the coaching on this team will definitely be superb, the talent
remains questionable. How far this will go this year is dependant on their ability to keep up with
the more high scoring offenses of the tournament’s top teams, a feat that will be hard for this
team to accomplish.

X-Factors: After taking a year off to play for North Broward High School and the
Florida Vipers, Ethan Lasko returns to YHS for his Junior season. The 6’1 guard helped the
Viper 16-UAA team to the 2015 UAA finals, and got to play among the nation’s best young
players. As a freshman for the Storm, Lasko put up big numbers and was a big part of the
offense. As a Junior he returns stronger and more physical than before, and will be the main part
of a YHS attack that will run through its guards. Accompanying Lasko in the backcourt are
Juniors Jared Stern and Evan Jacoby and Senior Michael Pearl. The 5’6 Stern is a talented point
guard who loves to shoot the long ball. Stern is also a talented passer, but it will be his ability to
shoot the three that will be most critical to this team’s success. The 6’1 Jacoby is a talented
scorer who uses his size to overpower smaller defenders and get to the line. The Storm will need
a consistent performance out of Jacoby who is going to take on a much bigger role this year. The
fourth member of this elite backcourt, is 5’9 Michael Pearl. He can shoot from anywhere on the
court, and will be a vital part of the Storm’s scoring attack. Where the Storm will really struggle
is down low, where they have plenty of size, but not much experience. Seniors Jacob Henschel
and Doni Baratz must step up, with the departure of YHS’s two leading big men.

Prediction: YHS gets a rematch with the team they knocked out of Tier I in their first
game. The CJ Tigers will be looking for revenge, but it looks more like they will lose to the
Storm for the second straight year. The similarities to last year will likely continue for this team,
as it does not look like they will be able to have any success in the loaded Tier I field. Despite
what I believe will be a strong start, I expect a poor finish from this group and will not be
surprised if they end up at the bottom of Tier I when it is all said and done. The Storm definitely
have plenty of potential and should use this tournament to get a feel of what their team will be
like going forward under their new coach. If YHS decides to return for Cooper X, they will be a
very dangerous team who will likely have a much better finish. For this year, I do not believe the
Storm will finish any higher than eighth in Tier I, but if they lose their opening matchup to CJ,
they will definitely be a contender for the Tier II championship.


It’s been all downhill for the #9 Chicagoland Jewish High School TIGERS since they
won the championship in 2012. The Tigers were unable to repeat in 2013, despite being the
overwhelming favorites, and with star guard, Josh Newlander, being hampered by injury in 2014,
they once again disappointed, losing in the Tier II Championship. The Tigers’ season only got
worse once they left Cooper, as they finished a dreadful 3-11. With Newlander graduated, it
seems like this team’s chances of ever contenting again have evaporated. Luckily, they do get a
shot at revenge against the #9 Storm, who knocked them into Tier II last year. However, Coach
Larry Becker’s squad seems to lack the talent necessary to compete with the top teams. Although
the coach himself believes that this team is as good as, if not better, than last year’s team, this
largely unproven group of guys will really have show up and play hard in order for the Tigers to
get back to Tier I. Honestly, I believe that it would be better for CJ to simply lose to YHS on
Thursday, and spend their energy competing for the Tier II championship. This team is going to
be as good as any in Tier II, and will have ample opportunity to redeem themselves for being
blown out of last year’s Tier II finals. Unfortunately for CJ fans, I don’t believe they will win the
Tier II championship either, and I have them finishing fourth in Tier II (12th overall).

After a one year hiatus, the #10 Scheck Hillel Community School returns to Memphis,
now as the LIONS. Although the team did enjoy some success at the Cooper Invitational as the
Hurricanes, including an unlikely run to the Championship back in 2009, the team decided it was
time to rebrand. Coach Craig Mankoff brings back most of last year’s team that went 12-9.
Although they did lose Captain and talented point guard Jacques Kaswan, they do return some
talented Juniors in guard Steven Beda and 6’2 forward, Jacky Klainbaum. Although this team
has a tough first round matchup in the #7 Flatbush Falcons, and will most likely be relegated to
Tier II, they will still be able to do plenty of damage. Definitely one of the top teams in Tier II,
expect the Lions to be a serious contender for the title of Tier II champions. However, I don’t
think this is their year, and instead I believe they will finish in third place in Tier II (11th

This year’s #11 North Shore Hebrew Academy STARS barely resemble the team that
was last year’s Cooper Invitational runner up, finished 9-5 in Yeshiva League play, and only lost
by two to eventual champions HAFTR in the Yeshiva League semis. The Stars lost one of the
best players in Jewish High School basketball in forward Cody Cohen, and return almost no key
contributors from last year’s star-studded team. Fortunately for Coach Edgar de la Rosa, this
year’s team will be receiving an influx of talent from last year’s 8-2 JV team. Whether these
talented Juniors make key contributions right away remains to be seen, but this team should not
be counted out. Although they are nowhere near as good as in year’s past, the 2015 stars still
play like they’re contending for the Tier I championship. North Shore begins its Cooper IX slate
with a game against the hometown Macs, whom they have never beat in the first round before.
Expect the Stars to fall to 0-3 in Thursday games when facing Cooper, but unlike previous losses
to Cooper, this one should not demoralize this team. North Shore should be able to bounce back
from what will surely be a competitive game against the Macs and be able to have their way in
Tier II. I believe that this team will get to the Tier II championship and may even be able to
finally bring a trophy back to Long Island. (Championship predictions are at the bottom).

In 2014-15 the New Community Jewish High School from West Hills, California was
one of the most formidable teams in Jewish High School basketball. Returning to Cooper IX as
the #12 de Toledo High School JAGUARS, this year’s team is almost nothing like the 20-4
Jaguars from last year. Led by the the dangerous trio of Noah Emanuel, Edan Evenhaim and
Daniel Ozer-Ross, last year’s team finished seventh in Cooper XIII and finished off their season
strong by beating YULA in the 2015 CIF Southern Section Boys Playoff Bracket. Unfortunately,
their three captains are gone and so are most of the other impact guys from last year’s Senior
laden team. Coach Motti Meisels will have to rely on 6’1 guard Ezra Emanuel and and 6’3 center
Michael Stavinsky to pick up the slack. The Jaguars will look to use their combination of size
and stellar shooting to outplay teams on offense, but it will be the ability of their defense that
will decide games. I believe this year’s Jaguars team is dangerous and will tear up Tier II.
Although I do not believe they will beat JDS in their first game, I do believe that they will make
it all the way to the Tier II championship. (Championship predictions are at the bottom).

The #13 Fasman Yeshiva High School return to Cooper for the sixth straight year.
Aside from year one, when they absolutely destroyed the Cooper Macs in their first game, they
have not had much success in this tournament. Unfortunately, that run looks to continue as this
team does not have much talent. They will rely on the outside shooting of 5’7 guard Zev Lafer
and the inside play of 6’4 center Michael Younes. I don’t expect Coach Ira Shyman’s squad to
much of anything in Cooper IX and I believe they will once again disappoint and finish seventh
in Tier II (15th overall).

The #14 Yeshivat Bnei Akiva Or Chaim KNIGHTS return to the Cooper Invitational
for the first time since 2010. Probably the most important contribution that this team makes is
that it allows the Cooper Invitational to market itself as drawing teams from all across North
America, instead of just the United States. The ability to tap into the Canadian market will be
huge for Cooper’s live feed ratings, and may allow them to pursue a lucrative TV deal next year.
Jokes aside, this team is actually better than their #14 seed shows. Led by 6’8 Center Yaakob
Bendayan, who is far and away the tallest player at Cooper IX. However, Bendayan rarely uses
his size and instead chooses to drift away from the basket and shoot jumpers and threes. What
the Knights need is for Bendayan to find his way in the paint, where he can use his tremendous
height to score over anyone. The Knights definitely have one of the biggest teams in the
tournament, with 6’3 Koby Welman and 6’5 Liam Stone accompanying Bendayan inside. Or
Chaim will also benefit from solid guard play, with pass-first point guard Sammy Newman and
talented scorer Armando Abitbol. Although they are most certainly in for a drubbing by #3
HAFTR in their first game, Or Chaim may be able to compete pretty decently in Tier II. I do
think this team is not quite skilled enough, and will have to settle for a sixth place finish in Tier
II (14th overall).

The #15 Akiva Hebrew Day School PIONEERS were underrated and overlooked
heading into last year’s Sarachek tournament. The Pioneers, who received the 20th seed,
surprised everyone by winning the Tier IV championship. Although this year’s team must
overcome the loss of Tier IV MVP Sander Eizen, as well as their backcourt leaders Andrew
Korman and Ezra Mendelson, the Pioneers do bring back 6’0 power forward, Josh Kornblum.
Kornblum will likely be the be best player on Coach Richard Kaczander’s inexperienced squad. I
think that Akiva will once again surprise team’s in the 2015 Cooper Invitational and outplay
their seed to a fifth place finish in Tier II (13th overall).

The #16 Atlanta Jewish Academy are making their ninth straight appearance in the
Cooper Invitational, and unfortunately for them it has been almost that long since they have been
relevant. Coach Vince Louis returns few pieces from the team that finished 13th in last year’s
Cooper Tournament and 15th in Sarachek. The only returning star is the 5’10 Junior, Dustin
Dayani. Dayani is lights out from behind the arc and has traditionally been the Jaguars’ most
clutch player. The only way this team can do anything this year is if Dayani can get hot, and if
twin towers 6’3 Nadav Yeglin and 6’3 Jacob Adler can dominate the post. If not, then it looks
like another bad finish for this team, and this year I believe they will in fact finish last in Tier II.

Tier I Championship

I believe that this year’s Tier I championship will feature the #1 DRS Wildcats and the #7
Flatbush Falcons. In a rematch of both of these team’s first regular season game, the Falcons will
undoubtedly use their pressure defense to force DRS star, Gabe Leifer, out of his comfort zone.
In order for Flatbush to pull this tremendous upset, they will need to force lots of turnovers and
be efficient on offense. For DRS, the key to winning the game is easy. All they have to do is
control the tempo and let their big guys, Leifer and 5’11 forward Zev Ben-Ami go to work
inside. If the the Wildcat ball handlers can escape the Falcon pressure they will have this game in
the bag. Flatbush should be motivated by the fact that they have been close to beating DRS
before, but this time they will not get as close. Gabe Leifer will show why he’s the best player in
the Yeshiva League with a dominant performance and a Tier I Most Outstanding Player award.
The final score in this one will be DRS 44-36 over Flatbush.

Tier II Championship

The Tier II championship will feature two teams that were at the top of their game last year. #11
North Shore and #12 de Toledo will surely hope for better than appearances in the Tier II
championship, but each will be satisfied with a victory in this game. In the battle of the coasts, I
think that the west coast will be victorious in this one. Although I predicted the Jaguars to win it
all last year and they disappointed me, I believe that this year the championship trophy will truly
go back to California, albeit the one from Tier II. I do expect this to be a close game but I think
that de Toledo will pull it out and win by a score of 47-45.

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