by Ari Mayblum ‘25
Although basketball requires a high level of athleticism and talent similar to many other sports, it also has an aspect that only a few other sports have: the off-court strategizing element.
This component includes watching films of future opponents and of previous games to fine-tune mistakes. Additionally, members of The Leffell School varsity team are required to do a certain amount of “homework” by learning the extensive playbook.
After the departure of 11 seniors who graduated in the class of 2019, the Lions had a tough time adapting to this change, finishing with three wins and 17 losses. Senior and captain of Boys Varsity Basketball (BVB) Abe Friedland is confident that this season will be different.
“I think we are more experienced than last time Varsity basketball rolled out,” Friedland said. “We’re definitely more of a skilled team. We will not go 3-17 this year. Do not worry about that. We’re just a much better team all around. There is nothing that the last team that you saw does better than this team.”
A major factor for why Friedland is motivated this season is that BVB has not yet won a sectional championship.
“There is a banner for almost every sport in our gym right now with the exception of basketball and I think that there has been a narrative in our school that the basketball team is just something we do to make kids like me feel happy,” Friedland said. “But we should be competing and I want to compete. It’s embarrassing when other schools come in and they don’t see a basketball banner.”
A key component of many high school basketball teams is the talent level of their upperclassmen, but underclassmen can also have a crucial impact on the success of their team. This year’s team includes five sophomores and one freshman, multi-sport athlete Russel Wechsler.
Wechsler has been practicing with BVB since they started their off-season workouts in late October.
After the conclusion of the fall soccer season, Wechsler will still be wearing the Lion’s green and white, but this time, as a member of the basketball team. He will shift his focus and smoothly transition into his main sport, however, with the requirement of learning up to 35 plays.
“I think we need a combination of both [on- and off-court preparation] because when we study the playbook off the court we apply that to our play on the court,” Wechsler said. “You need plays for many situations so we need to have plays for all situations.”
Wechsler, along with the rest of the team, is hoping for a successful playoff run and has faith in BVB Coach Ted Garber to help his team achieve that goal.
“I completely trust Coach Garber to bring out the best of us and I think he will set us up to succeed,” Wechsler said.
While the 3-17 record may not show it, Garber believes that the team really began to gel and play together as a unit at the end of the 2019-20 season. He also feels that the understanding of the playbook, as well as practice together, will help this year’s team find success.
“I think they both are important,” Garber said. “There’s a feel to the game that you need to have or you need to understand your spacing or where you have to be in certain situations. You have to play with five guys and a lot of people kind of just take the ball and think they can do it on their own. That’s not gonna work as part of a team environment.”
Garber also has high aspirations for this season and thinks that the Lions’ opponents will not expect BVB’s success, truly embracing the underdog mentality.
“I think we have the talent to do it, if we can put it all together I think we can make a run,” Garber said. “We’re certainly not the favorite. We are never the favorite. But I think we can surprise some people this year.”