JTA — In a history-making season for the Yeshiva University men’s basketball team, here are a couple more firsts: two players named All-America, including one on the first team, and a coach chosen as national Coach of the year.
The players are Ryan Turell, a sophomore guard from Los Angeles who was chosen as one of the top five players in the country, and Gabe Leifer, a senior forward from Lawrence, New York, who was selected to the fourth team.
The coach is Elliot Steinmetz, who in his sixth season guiding the Maccabees led the squad to a 29-1 record, the best in school history, and an appearance in the NCAA Division III’s Sweet 16.
The tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus, but not until Yeshiva had won its first two games, another first for the flagship institution of Modern Orthodoxy.
Turell and Leifer are the first Yeshiva University players to be honored by D3hoops.com, which has been selecting All-America squads for 23 seasons.
Turell, also the Skyline Conference’s Player of the Year, earned his accolades by averaging a team best 23.9 points, including shooting an outstanding 46% from three-point range, as well as 5.9 rebounds a game. The 6-7 point guard poured in 41 and 30 points, respectively, in the Macs’ NCAA tournament victories.
“Ryan has been a constant in every game he’s played and commands the game from the one spot,” the university’s director of athletics, Joe Bednarsh, said on the team’s website.
With Steinmetz at the helm, Yeshiva ripped off 29 consecutive victories following a loss in its opening game and was ranked No. 8 in the country at one point by D3hoops.com. He is the first coach to take the Macs to the NCAA tournament, first pulling off the feat two seasons ago. But the club lost in the opening round that year.
“What an amazing close to a season like no other,” Bednarsh said. “What can I say about Elliot except that he’s done everything to make this program the national force that it is and has helped energize the entire Jewish world behind the Maccabees.”
Leifer, at 6-5, averaged 16 points per game as well as team highs with 13.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists. Like Turell, he excelled in big games, picking up triple-doubles (points, rebounds and assists) in the Skyline Conference championship game victory and in one of the NCAA tournament games.
“Gabe has been a force in this league from the first day he stepped onto the court and is certainly one of the 20 best players in the country,” Bednarsh said.