Yavneh’s Varsity Bulldog Basketball team is scoring congratulations as it is now ranked the No. 2 small private school in Texas and the No. 9 Jewish high school in North America. With nine regular season games remaining and the Red Saracheck National Invitational Tournament at the end of March, the players and coaches are ready to dunk Yavneh’s record into the history books.
At press time, the Bulldogs sported a record of 22-4. Earlier in the year, the Bulldogs placed fifth in the Cooper Yeshiva High School National Invitational in Memphis and second at the Florence & Joseph Weiner Memorial Basketball Tournament in Baltimore.
“We have been through wins and losses both on and off the court and we are better for it. These experiences will make us a better team for the second half of the season but more importantly, I’m hoping that these become lifelong memories and friendships that will last forever for all of our students,” said Athletic Director and Head Coach David Zimmerman, who is in his second year at Yavneh. “We have received many gracious and beautiful emails and phone calls about how everyone loves Yavneh and our students. It brings a smile to my face, warms my heart, and brings me pride to know that our school is representing Dallas and our community so well.”
Zimmerman, assisted on the court by Zack Pollack and Dr. Max Ribald, also serves as Yavneh’s director of co-curricular activities, advising organizations including Students Against Terrorism, Points for Peace Basketball Tournament, Students4Students and Helping Hands for the Homeless. Zimmerman attended Solomon Schechter Academy (now Ann and Nate Levine Academy), Booker T. Washington High School and Southern Methodist University. A New York native, he moved to Dallas at age 5 when his father Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, arrived as senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El.
“Coach Zimmerman has put us in position to do what we do and the experience my teammates have had is invaluable. He’s brought a system to Yavneh that puts the team first, and the best part about coach is he truly loves and cares for every last one of us,” said Adam Karnett, co-captain of the Bulldogs alongside fellow graduating seniors, Itai Guttman and Sam Kleinman. Karnett and Kleinman have played for Zimmerman at the J, Levine Academy and Yavneh for more than a decade.
“We play with a team-first mentality and I don’t think there is a single player on our team that cares about personal stats,” said Karnett who, while not his priority to note, is in fact number three on the Bulldog record books for single game steals, No. 4 for career steals and No. 5 for career assists. “If we win that’s the only stat that matters to us. Coach’s passion for the game is so evident and clear and it’s obvious that his only dream for this team is not just to achieve success, but to be sure to enjoy the journey.”
“Coach trusts us on the court, and works us hard because all he wants us to do is succeed, not only as basketball players but also as great leaders in the Jewish community,” said Guttman, who holds Yavneh’s all-time record for blocked shots and is No. 2 in career rebounds. “We love winning, but it isn’t all about that. These guys are a second set of brothers and we laugh a lot. The success we’ve had is because we work hard together and we genuinely like being together.”
Zimmerman’s personal goal after coming to Yavneh was to build the reputation of the school and athletic programs so that it would become a household name nationally and statewide. Just one year later, there is a buzz about the school around the country and the state, and it’s not just about the athletic prowess, but also about the students and the people they are.
“Our number one goal is to get better. We’ve come a long way but we still have much to do,” said Zimmerman, noting that, after a 12-year break, Yavneh has returned to TAPPS (the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools) as regulations including religious exemptions were provided to teams who do not participate in programming on Shabbat. “We’re hoping a good record in District will provide a chance to chase the ultimate dream of a state title. These are unbelievably lofty goals that at first seemed like pipe dreams, but because of our incredible administration, faculty, parents, coaching staff, and above all our amazing students, are beginning to become reality.
“TAPPS has given us something additional to look forward to, but we are all competitive and want to win regardless. I don’t make predictions, I play,” said Kleinman, Yavneh’s all-time career leader in assists and in a single game, and No. 3 on the Bulldog record books for single game steals. “I want this team to go down as one of the most complete teams in Yavneh history.”
The Varsity Bulldogs home game schedule continues on Jan. 27, 28 and Feb. 6, 11 (Senior Recognition Night) and 13.
Submitted by Deb Silverthorn, Yavneh Academy communications director and community liason.