Princeton's Greenman Set for Defining Experience As He Heads to Israel for World Maccabiah Games
By Bill Alden
With war raging in Iraq and the Middle East region notorious as a hotbed for terrorism, Israel is not exactly a preferred getaway destination for American college students.
But for Princeton University senior basketball star Scott Greenman, getting the opportunity to play in the upcoming World Maccabiah Games in Israel was an opportunity he wasn't about to pass up.
Last week, Greenman and his teammates on the U.S. open men's basketball squad left for Tel Aviv to participate in the games which will run from July 10-21.
The event, often referred to as the "Jewish Olympics," started in 1932 and features Olympic-style competition in more than 20 sports for Jewish athletes ranging in age from 17 to 70. The 2001 Games attracted 2,200 athletes from 46 countries.
The point guard decided to go for the U.S. squad at the urging of Princeton assistant basketball coach Howard Levy, who played in the 1985 and 1989 Games before coaching in the 1993 competition.
"I have played in national and regional Maccabiah Games," said Greenman, a native of Linwood, N.J.
"Coach Levy talked to me about the international games last fall. He told me that besides playing for Princeton University, it is the greatest experience I would have in basketball on and off the court."
While Greenman played overseas in Italy two summers ago, he believes traveling to Israel will be unlike any trip he has ever experienced.
"Going to Israel is going to be shocking," asserted Greenman, who noted that the team will get to go sightseeing before starting competition.
"I've never been anywhere so historically significant and important. We will be traveling to historic sites. I'm excited; I think it's going to be an unbelievable experience."
Greenman acknowledged that he has some concerns over the security situation in the region. "It's a little nerve-wracking," said Greenman, who has distant cousins living in Israel.
"There will be a lot of people over there, you need to be careful. You hope that you're not in the wrong place at the wrong time. You pray for the best."
Greenman is hoping for the best on the court as he plays for U.S. coach Herb Brown, the brother of legendary Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown.
"It'll be fun, I will be playing with some good Division I players," said Greenman, who will be joined on the U.S. squad by Princeton teammate Harrison Schaen.
"Israel and Brazil will have tough teams. The international game is different with a 24-second clock, an eight-second limit to get the ball to midcourt and a wider lane. It quickens the pace."
With the U.S. team having practiced for about a week in late June at LaSalle University, Greenman is primed to give his best for the U.S.
"I talked to Coach Brown and he said playing time would come down to who plays well together and who plays the hardest," said Greenman, a 5'9, 165-pounder known for his scrappy play and long range shooting prowess. "I got some of the gear recently and just putting on shirts with USA on them was very special."
In Greenman's view, playing in the Maccabiah Games should be ideal preparation for his final season of college basketball.
"I'll be playing everyday and then I have two months after we get back to get stronger and even better," asserted Greenman, who has scored 521 points so far in his Princeton career and is already 11th all-time in program history in three-pointers with 104.
As the sole team captain for Princeton in the upcoming season, Greenman is determined to help the program bounce back from a frustrating campaign last winter which saw the Tigers post their first ever losing record in Ivy League play.
"We had a different coach and a different system," said Greenman in reflecting on the program's first season under head coach Joe Scott.
"But it was the same group of players and we knew how to win. We just didn't get it done. I'm going to lead by example. The ideal goal is to get to the point where nothing has to be said and the players know how hard they should be working."
Coach Levy, for his part, thinks that Greenman's Maccabiah experience will help him set a better example. "He's got the chance to be a leader of a team," said Levy. "I emphasized to him that he will get the chance to develop his leadership skills and to play with some great guys. Hopefully this will become his team. He is the captain of our team now."
For Greenman, getting strengthened physically and mentally by the Maccabiah experience should serve him well as he aims to help Princeton develop into a force this winter.
"We need to get stronger," said Greenman, noting that everyone kept their nose to the grindstone during the team's spring conditioning program.
"We need to impose ourselves physically on other teams. It's not how you react when things go well that shows what kind of team you are. It's how you react to tough times and bounce back that shows character."
With the Maccabiah experience under his belt, Greenman should add a special dose of character to Princeton this winter.