By Reid Danels
National Hillel Basketball Tournament Board
In the midst of the NCAA basketball tournament, another form of March Madness will take place in College Park. The fourth annual National Hillel Basketball Tournament, hosted and run by University of Maryland Hillel students and held March 28 – 30, will bring together hundreds of Jewish college students from across the country to determine the best collegiate Jewish basketball team in the country. Not only will competitive basketball be played, but the whole weekend will certainly be a memorable one with hundreds of Jewish students coming together for this event.
Maryland Hillel believes in meeting students where they are and helping them to grow in their Jewish journeys. Many students love basketball and the National Hillel Basketball Tournament is an opportunity for students to celebrate their Judaism together, while meeting new people. Former NBA commissioner David Stern said it best in his video address at last year’s tournament when he commented that the tournament is remarkable because “it brings together Jewish college students around a sport they love.”
Over the past three years, this Maryland Hillel student-organized initiative has become the largest intercollegiate basketball tournament in the country. The tournament kicks off with Shabbat services at the Rosenbloom Hillel Center and dinner for over 500 students in the Stamp Student Union. Then the first round games begin Saturday evening and continue Sunday morning, with the championship game played Sunday afternoon.
This year’s tournament is shaping up to be magnificent with more teams competing than ever before. In total there are 40 teams participating from 30 universities, which is the maximum capacity for the Hillel Tournament. There are 10 teams playing from University of Maryland, plus Baltimore teams from UMBC Hillel and Towson Hillel. There are a lot of teams coming that have never been to the tournament before. In addition to the many students attending the tournament weekend, Bruce Levenson, co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks, also will speak.
The Leader Family Fund has been the primary sponsor for the tournament and is generously sponsoring it again this year, along with many other product sponsors. Maryland Hillel, an agency of the Associated, is a key partner organization providing staff support, kosher food, hosting visitors for Shabbat and more.
The National Hillel Basketball Tournament has an active Facebook page and a brand new website, hilleltournament.com, which features a video message by Kevin Blackistone of ESPN’s Around The Horn, a kippot voting section, which tallied a total of 3500 votes for the 2014 tournament’s official kippah design, and a Pick ‘Em pool where players and fans can vote to predict the winners of the Men’s and Women’s brackets.
There is no word yet on whether the NCAA men’s and women’s champions will face the Hillel champion afterwards, but it is guaranteed that this year’s tournament is the biggest and best yet.