When Ashford Jackson first witnessed the Northwest Yeshiva High School (NYHS) boys varsity basketball squad display its camaraderie and chemistry on the court, he was drawn to the program.
“I felt like this could be a magical season with these guys,” said the first-year NYHS head coach and athletic director after he watched the Lions hone their skills during an open-gym session.
Making his way over to the Mercer Island school from Ingraham High School in Seattle — where he was a varsity assistant and freshman team head coach — Jackson feels he’s in an ideal spot on the small, 53-student campus.
A dozen of those students are part of the boys squad — and they’re putting together a memorable campaign with a 10-0 overall record at post time and have grabbed the No. 1 spot out of 73 teams in the 1B category of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association rankings. The Lions sported a 6-0 1B/2B Sea-Tac League record at post time.
The team’s five seniors have played together since the third grade at Seattle Hebrew Academy where they led the squad to a 16-0 record as seventh-graders.
Jackson praised the entire NYHS squad on a recent afternoon during a lunch break: “They know where they’re going to be on the court — who’s running, who’s going to pick, give and go. They just have this connection and it’s hard to break. They’re taking it by storm. They’re learning it and they’re all just kind of clicking on the court.”
Leading the way with a firm grip on Jackson’s strategies regarding defensive pressure and offensive sets are seniors Victor Maimon, Yoel Kintzer, Eli Weiss, Shimon Rosenbaum and Dovi Goldberg.
Captain and point guard Kintzer is averaging 21.5 points a game, including a 34-point barrage against Shoreline Christian. Fellow captain and post Maimon knocked in 21 points against Bush and post Weiss amassed 21 points against Muckleshoot Tribal.
“That’s the big thing about us, we get the job done no matter what. Whoever’s in, we just got to score, that’s all that matters. Our goal is winning,” said Kintzer, who stands 6-foot-1. “We’re all pretty unselfish, and at the end of the day we play for one another. We share the ball, we play good defense and that’s what wins games.”
Maimon, who’s also 6-1, reached back to that school-record undefeated season at Seattle Hebrew Academy to bring his thoughts into the present.
“We kind of just knew that if we stick together, we could do something special going into high school,” he said. “It wasn’t easy in the beginning. We’re all freshmen starting on varsity and we were losing by a lot, but we stuck together, kept with it and now it’s our turn.”
Rosenbaum, a shooting guard/forward, noted that the Lions have made significant progress since a 1-17 freshmen season. They worked their way up to a 10-12 sophomore season and then notched a 6-3 record during a truncated junior season because of COVID.
“It’s just fun playing the games and seeing our hard work pay off,” he said.
Goldberg, a point guard, said that the Lions went above and beyond the call of duty by participating in morning hoops sessions at a local park in freezing weather. It’s helped pave the way for their success as they gun for a state-tournament appearance.
“We’re like a family. (We) just go out every day and practice with each other and just play basketball, which is what I love to do,” said Goldberg, whose Lions play their home games and practice at the Seattle Hebrew Academy on Capitol Hill.
When it comes to mixing it up inside and snagging rebounds, that’s where 6-foot center Weiss can be found getting his job done.
“I like to get other people involved. Pass it to me in the middle and then I can get it out, because we have really good shooters,” said Weiss, adding that he can handle the big guys inside since he often practices with his 6-3 father.
NYHS is the only accredited Jewish high school to offer dual curriculum in the northwest. As a constant reminder of their religion, the boys wear yamakas during their basketball games.
“It signifies that there’s something above you, something that’s greater than you, which we believe is God,” Goldberg said.