Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Orthodox Jewish basketball player at Northwestern

From ESPN last week:
Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, begins at sundown Saturday. But there's already cause for celebration among Jewish basketball fans thanks to Aaron Liberman, a freshman walk-on at Northwestern who also happens to be an Orthodox Jew. He hasn't yet appeared in a game this season because of a nasty case of shin splints, but he's easy to spot on the bench: He's the one wearing a yarmulke.

When Liberman is eventually given medical clearance to make his Northwestern debut, which he expects will be "pretty soon," he plans to wear his yarmulke on the court. (Northwestern is making two versions for him -- purple and white for home games, and purple and black for the road.) That will make him only the second yarmulke-clad player in Division I basketball history. The first such player was Tamir Goodman, the much-hyped "Jewish Jordan," who played for Towson in 2000 and 2001. But disagreements with a new coach derailed Goodman's college basketball career early in his sophomore year, leaving Division I hard courts yarmulke-free until Liberman's arrival this season.

And get this: Liberman, who's 6-foot-10 and was fifth in the nation in blocked shots for Valley Torah High School in Los Angeles in 2011, also plans to wear tzitzit -- the specially knotted fringes or tassels worn by observant Jews -- on the court. The tzitzit will be underneath his base-layer undershirt, and the fringes will be tucked into his shorts. Goodman didn't wear tzitzit while at Towson, so Liberman almost certainly will be Division I's first tzitzit-clad player. Mazel tov!
The article goes on to talk about how Division III basketball teams (like Yeshiva University) deals with yarmulkes, and has a hilarious aside about when the Mets pitching coach was seen on TV wearing a Mets yarmulke in 2010.