On July 1, Jewish Hoops of America named Judah Oppenheimer, of Scarsdale and SAR Academy (‘19), as the National Player of the Year for the 2018-19 season. According to Jewish Hoops of America, “Oppenheimer capped a stellar three year varsity career by averaging 21.4 points per game and led the Sting to a 15-10 record and a semifinal appearance at the Sarachek Tournament.”
Oppenheimer, a point guard, started playing at SAR Academy in sixth grade. He then joined SAR’s ninth grade junior varsity team and continued to play on the varsity team in tenth through twelfth grades. His highest scoring game occurred in his senior year when he scored 36 points against Ramaz. Oppenheimer’s most memorable game was against Valley Torah at the annual Yeshiva University Sarachek tournament in tenth grade. “My team was relying on me as a young player and I took advantage of my opportunity on a big stage.”
Oppenheimer revealed, “I realized I had a real knack for the game when I was able to anticipate a play before it developed.” Oppenheimer, who grew up going to New York Knicks games with his father, added, “I started playing basketball when I was two years old in my basement, and I got interested in the sport though my older brother Daniel, who was always playing and taught me how to play.” Oppenheimer’s favorite team is the Knicks and favorite player is Kevin Durant.
Earlier in July, Oppenheimer played for the USA team in the PanAm Maccabi Games held in Mexico City, where they won the gold medal and went 5-0. Oppenheimer was selected for the team after SAR Coach Rafi Halpert submitted game film highlights to the head coach of the USA team. Oppenheimer also played in the 2014 Maccabi games in Detroit, where the USA team also won the gold medal.
“I am grateful to receive this honor,” stated Oppenheimer. “I feel fortunate to have played under terrific coaches and lucky to be able to play with my friends for so many years.” Oppenheimer advised aspiring young players to “be disciplined, to recognize it’s a team game, work when the lights are off and stay humble.”
Oppenheimer added, “I train by focusing on strength and conditioning, catch and shoot/off the dribble drills, and I always practice shooting free throws when I’m tired. I envision the game while I’m practicing. I am inspired by my brother and Tom Brady. They are both hard workers and are always push beyond their limits. They inspire me to stay disciplined and block out outside noise and never be satisfied until I reach my goals.”
Oppenheimer will be attending Reishit in Israel next year and then going on to Yeshiva University where he plans to play basketball on the college level. Oppenheimer revealed, “I plan to take my basketball career as far as the game takes me.”
“It’s a lot of fun to coach a player as talented and coachable as Judah,” expressed Halpert. “Judah is a phenomenal player who really stood out amongst his peers this season. While most nights Judah faced double and sometimes triple teams, he almost never took a bad shot and still managed to lead the league in scoring. I am really proud of Judah, not only is he an amazing player, but he is an even better teammate and a true mensch on and off the court.”
Sammy Sokol (SAR HS ’18) of New Rochelle explained that he played with Judah for three years, “I realized his talent when he was a sophomore during the Sarachek tournament when he hit big shot after big shot against Valley Torah. Judah’s very deserving of this award. He’s the hardest working kid I know!”
Michael Courtney, SAR director of college counseling and head coach of the junior varsity boys’ basketball team added, “Judah was my starting point guard from the very first practice and behind his stellar play, our team made it to the league championship game.Judah used to come to many of Daniel’s JV games when he was in fourth and fifth grade and there was a buzz when Judah would shoot around on a side hoop before and after games and during halftime. I started working with him a bit when he was in seventh grade and the prodigious talent was apparent. He was an incredibly advanced dribbler, a highly effective outside shooter, a fearless driver to the hoop and a possessor of superior court vision.”
“It’s very exciting to have such a stellar talent at SAR High School. I thoroughly enjoyed coaching Judah for one season and watching many of his varsity games for three seasons, Courtney proudly stated. “Judah was a perfect representative for SAR with his commitment to the ethos of our school; he’s a huge mensch. More important than his basketball talents are his gifts as a special human being. Judah is as kind and gentle as they come, a perfect role model for his peers and younger students.”
Courtney continued, “He works incredibly hard at improving as a basketball player every day, but he’s an even more effective example of how a high school star athlete should carry himself both on and off the court. He learned that from his amazingly committed parents. You’ll never hear a person utter a negative remark about Judah Oppenheimer’s character and for that, it means so much to our school that he was given the player of the year award. Personally, I love the kid and can’t wait to see what he does next on the basketball court after his year in Israel.”
By Judy Berger