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Top YU Macs of the '90s and ‘00s

In the 1990s and 2000s, the Yeshiva University Maccabees had a better winning percentage than in the previous two decades, as the team went 264-244 (a 52% winning percentage). While Yeshiva was not a top team in their conference every year, it had some incredible players (including some of the top passers and scorers in Yeshiva’s history), so some of YU’s most successful seasons came during these 20 years. These are the top Yeshiva University Maccabees squads of the 1990s and 2000s.


Note: Many years and specific statistics may be missing due to incomplete data. All statistics are compiled from yumacs.com, previous YU Commentators, Coach Jonathan Halpert’s book, YU statistics pages, or internet pages.


Miko Danan (1990-1994)


The first Israeli to be recruited straight from Israel, Miko Danan played four years for Yeshiva, scoring 1256 points in 79 games (good for a 15.9 point per game average). Before even hearing about YU, Danan played against MTA and future teammate Eric Davis in an exhibition game during his time in the Israeli army and was later introduced to coach Johnny Halpert. In Danan’s rookie season, he averaged 15 points per game, and in his second season, he upped his production to 19.7 points and 5.3 rebounds. Unfortunately, his career declined after that, as in his junior year, he averaged 14.6 points and 3.7 rebounds; in his senior year, Danan averaged 12.7 points and 5.2 rebounds before tearing his ACL in a game against nationally ranked NYU. Following graduation, Danan played a few seasons in Israel but was not the same after his injury. In his finest game as a Maccabee, Danan put up 25 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, and six steals. Throughout his Macs career, Danan was voted to the IAC First Team twice, placing as the IAC Rookie of the Year and IAC Third Team once.


Fun Fact: Danan’s daughter played for DI Weber State for two years and then two more years at DII Eckerd College.  


Daniel Aaron (1991-1994)

One of the highest per-game scorers in Yeshiva's basketball history, Daniel Aaron averaged 19.52 PPG throughout his career, scoring 1054 points in only 54 games. In his first season with the Macs, Aaron averaged 20.4 points and 11.8 rebounds, 19.6 and 8.6 in his second season, and 18.9 points and 12.8 rebounds in his third and final season (for a career 10.76 RPG average). Aaron’s single-game career-high was 35 points, which he reached twice during his three-year career (six days apart from each other). Aaron was also a quality rebounder for the Macs, grabbing over 20 rebounds twice in a single game (with a career-high of 22). Aaron particularly led the Macs’ stifling defense, as they were tops in DIII in opponent points per game, giving up just 59.5 PPG in his senior year. Twice in his Macs career, Aaron was named to the IAC First Team, and once named to the IAC Second Team. As part of his leading presence, Aaron also served as the captain of the Macs in his last season (1993-1994).


Fun Fact: Daniel Aaron was the MVP of the Yeshiva League during his time in high school. 


Joel Jacobson (1994-1998)

Six-foot-seven Joel Jacobson was one of the best big men in Yeshiva’s history, scoring 1330 career points in 91 games for an average of 14.62 points per game. Earning more minutes in the latter seasons with the team, Jacobson averaged 16 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in his junior season, and as a senior, Jacobson put up 20.9 points and 10.57 rebounds per game for the Macs. Because of Jacobson’s play and leadership, the Macs in those two seasons recorded consecutive 15+ wins, which had never been done before (the previous high was two successive 13+ wins). Jacobson recorded his career-high of 38 points against Pratt in Feb 1998.


Fun Fact: Jacobson served as the captain for the Macs in his final two seasons of play.


Yossy Gev retired as the Macs all-time leading scorer, cementing himself as one of the greatest players in YU history. ( Photo Credit: Yeshiva Athletics)


Yossy Gev (1998-2002)


Retiring as Yeshiva University’s all-time leading scorer, Yossy Gev put up 1871 points in 95 career games (19.69 PPG), which had held up for 20 years until Ryan Turell surpassed it. In his first season, Gev set the Macs’ rookie scoring record with 447 points, following that up with two straight seasons with 430 or more points each. In his senior year, Gev’s 511 points in the 2001-2002 season were the fourth-most points in one season in Yeshiva’s history and helped him pass Ayal Hod for the all-time record. Gev was a talented all-around player, shooting 42.2% from 3-point territory one season, leading the Macs in steals for at least two seasons, and rebounds at least twice throughout his four-year career. Throughout his time with the Macs, Gev was awarded many DIII Metro/Atlantic awards, including the Skyline Conference First Team twice and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division III Atlantic All-District All-Star team.


Fun Fact: Gev was convinced to come to play college basketball for Yeshiva University by Marvin Hershkowitz, the first player to score 1000 points for Yeshiva.



Jack Yulzary (1999-2002, 2003-2004)

Israeli-born Jack Yulzary was not known as a scorer; however, he has his name all over the Yeshiva record books. A talented passer, Yulzary retired with the all-time assist record, distributing 367 assists over his four-year career, with two seasons of 100 or more assists. Moreover, Yulzary had a quick hands-on defense, holding the school record for steals in one season (128), SPG in one season (5.5), and career steals (258). Yulzary also had very impressive shooting splits, setting the records for 3PT% in one season (47.8%) and for a career (41.9%), and also placed third-highest in FT% for a season (81.9%) and second in career FT% (79.1%). Yulzary was once awarded to the Skyline Conference Second Team, and once to the Skyline Honorable Mention team. Though Yulzary was never the top star for Yeshiva, his all-around game helped him become one of, if not the, greatest secondary players in school history.


Fun Fact: Yulzary became the second player to have two separate stints as a captain of the YU team, serving as a captain in the 2001-2002 and 2003-2004 seasons.



Eli Hami (2000-2003)

Eli Hami was a fantastic scorer for Yeshiva, scoring 1266 points in just 70 games for the Maccabees (an average of 18.09 PPG). In his rookie season, Hami averaged 16.5 points and 2.7 steals for the Macs, and in his final season, Hami set the school’s single-season scoring record with 548 points in 25 games (for an average of 21.9 PPG). Hami wasn’t just a scorer, as he has the second-most steals in a single game (11), the fourth-most steals (91), and SPG (4.1) in a single season, and the third-most career steals (221), despite playing just three seasons. Hami was a two-time MVP in the Yeshiva gym—once as a high-schooler at the Sarachek Tournament (beating out Tamir Goodman) and once as the Skyline Conference MVP.


Fun Fact: Hami represented the US in the 2001 Maccabiah games after his first season for YU.



Harel Vatavu (2003-2007)

Six-foot-five Harel Vatavu was a quality scorer in his four years for the Macs, as he scored 1115 points in 96 games for Yeshiva (for an average of 11.61 PPG). However, the big man’s passing ability was what really shined, as he retired as the third all-time leading assist distributor in YU’s history with 333 career assists. Furthermore, Vatavu distributed the then second-highest number of assists in one season with 136 (for an average of 5.4 APG) and set his career-high with 11 assists that season in a game against Old Westbury. Vatavu was a captain of the team for his last two seasons with the squad and was once voted as the Skyline Conference’s Player of the Week.


Fun Fact: After his senior season, Vatavu served as the assistant coach for YU for one year.


Ian Ribald (2003-2007)

As a result of his high school basketball prowess, Ian “Yitzy” Ribald was accepted to DI Fordham University, but on behalf of his Shabbat observance, chose to come to play for Yeshiva, becoming maybe the first player to defer DI offers in favor of YU. Ribald was a talented long-distance shooter who had never shot below 41.3% from beyond the arc for a season in his four-year career. Furthermore, Ribald currently holds Yeshiva’s all-time single-season 3PT% record at 50.9% and career 3PT% with 45.7%. Ribald was also an exceptional free throw shooter, setting the third-best FT% for a season with 87.7%, and second-highest for a career (84.7%). Ribald is a member of YU’s 1000-point club, scoring 1287 points throughout his 99-game career, for an average of 13 PPG. In 2005-06, Ribald was awarded a spot on the Skyline Conference Second Team, and in 2006-2007 was a Skyline Conference Honorable Mention.


Fun Fact: Ribald was voted First-Team All-State in Texas his senior year and finished his time at Yavneh Academy as 15th all-time in career scoring in the entire state of Texas. 


Zachary Gordon (2007-2008)

One of the best first-year players in Yeshiva’s history, Zachary Gordon scored 525 points in his only season with the Macs, the third-highest single-season number in YU’s history at the time and the highest-ever number for a rookie. Gordon’s numbers were among the best in the Skyline Conference, as his 20.2 PPG and 1.81 blocks per game (BPG) ranked second in the conference, and his 7.5 RPG ranked fifth. Gordon was voted Skyline’s Rookie of The Year and First Team All-Conference. In the Skyline playoffs, Gordon scored a career-high 41 points against Old Westbury to help lead Yeshiva to a 22-point, second-half comeback win. Had Gordon stayed longer at Yeshiva, there would be no question that he would have finished as the all-time leading scorer.


Fun Fact: After one season at Yeshiva, Gordon transferred to DI University of Pennsylvania, playing on their basketball team for two years. Following his time at UPenn, Gordon played professionally in the top league in Israel, playing for Maccabi Ashdod.


Martin Leibovich didn't play in a Macs uniform for long, but he made every moment count. (Photo Credit: Yeshiva Athletics)


Martin Leibovich (2008-2010)

Buenos Aires native Martin Leibovich only played for Yeshiva for two seasons, but he left his mark on the team. In his first season, Leibovich led the Macs in total points (435), rebounds (164), assists (63), and steals (46), while placing second in blocks, culminating in being awarded a spot on the Skyline Conference Second Team. In his second and final year, Leibovich once again led the team in points (378), rebounds (178) and tied for the lead in blocks (10), and placed second in assists (58) and steals (40), this time earning a spot on the Skyline Conference First-Team. Leibovich finished his career with 813 points in only 48 games played, for an average of 16.94 points per game.


Fun Fact: Before arriving at Yeshiva, Leibovich played basketball at DII Barry University for a year (and before that for Navarro Community College in the NJCAA).



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