2011-12-21 / Sports
Burach competing for U.S. in Pan Am Maccabi Games
Todd Burach thought his serious basketball days were behind him. The former Manalapan High School standout who earned a position on the Syracuse University team as a walk-on and was on the roster for three seasons (2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07), was playing pick-up games and in men’s recreation leagues in New York City.
Now settled into the business world at Morgan Stanley, Burach was only playing a few days a week.
Things changed for Burach during the summer. With some Syracuse connections, he was invited to try out for the U.S. Maccabi Games basketball team that was planning to compete in the 12th Pan American Maccabi Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 2.
“They (the Maccabi Games) are always something you heard about,” Burach said. “I knew about the Pan-Am Games. It was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up.”
The Maccabi Games are known as the Jewish Olympics and are held every four years in Israel.
The Pan Am Maccabi Games are an Olympic competition open to Jewish athletes residing in North, Central and South America.
The United States will be sending a contingent of more that 400 athletes to the Pan Am Maccabi Games, including the 12 men’s basketball players.
When Burach went to the first tryouts in July at the Jewish Community Center in West Orange, he was not sure what to expect. Now 26 years old, he had been away from serious competition for a few years and he was the second oldest player at the tryouts.
“It was pretty exciting to be back in competition,” he said. “I was rusty.”
Burach said he would get winded at first, but added that, “I never lost my jump shot. It took a little bit to get things going. Once I survived the first weekend, I set up workouts.”
Having made the first cut, Burach was not going to let a chance to compete for the United States slip away. On Dec. 24, he and his new teammates, including former Marlboro High School standout Andrew Goldstein, and Burach’s former Syracuse roommate, Ross Diliegro, will leave for Brazil.
The United States team has players from all over the country, including Washington state and Nevada. After four threeday mini-camps, the players have bonded. “We have become really friendly,” Burach said.
The head coach of the U.S. Maccabi team is Steve Whitner, a former head coach at Pace University, New York.
Burach will be playing small forward for the American squad.
“We are going to run a motion offense, UCLA cuts with dribble hand-offs” he explained, adding that it suits his style of cutting and slashing to the basket.
The U.S. will look to play pressure defense and score in transition.
Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Israel are the other teams in the basketball competition. The winning team will have to play seven games in nine days, which is why it is important for the U.S. team to have depth from player No. 1 to player No. 12. The team’s goal to bring home the gold medal.
While Burach has returned to competitive basketball, he is also working on his MBAtwo nights at week at New York University. He has had to manage his time between work, study and basketball workouts which include cardio exercise at a gym and a basketball game wherever he can find one.
“I don’t understand how it gets done,” he said.
If he ever questions why he is doing all this, Burach just has to look at his uniform.
“One of the coolest feelings is putting on the uniform with USAon the front,” he said. “That’s all the motivation you need.”
For Burach, the Maccabi Games are about more than basketball.
“People from all around the world will be there,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to meet other Jews.”
That opportunity and playing serious basketball again will make the Pan Am Maccabi Games the best of both worlds for Todd Burach.