Three brothers from Teaneck made college basketball history on January 25, 2017, when they played simultaneously during the Yeshiva University Maccabees’ victorious 73-43 game against Sarah Lawrence College on YU’s home court in Manhattan.
Jordan, Justin, and Tyler Hod (pronounced Hode) were the first trio of siblings ever to play in the same NCAA Division III college basketball game. It was only the fourth such occurrence in NCAA history.
Jordan, a 22-year-old senior starting point guard and team co-captain, finished the historic game with six points, eight assists, and two rebounds. (His middle name, not coincidentally, is Michael.)
His younger siblings joined the action in the fourth quarter. Justin, 21, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard and small forward, scored two points. Tyler, a 6-foot-1 freshman point guard and shooting guard, made two assists and grabbed a rebound.
And there’s more. The Hod family’s record-breaking history at the Jewish university made the moment even more remarkable.
The boys’ father, Lior, and their uncle, Ayal, were known as the “Twin Towers” or the “Hod Towers” when they played for the Macs in the 1980s. During that decade, they each broke scoring records — Lior first, with 1,541 career points, and then Ayal, with 1,807 points. Ayal’s record stood until 2002. Later, their younger brother, Asaf, also joined the Macs basketball squad.
Lior’s sons got their start with the Macs very early, serving as water boys for the team they later would join on their own merit.
“Our kids have been coming to YU games since they were born,” said Mr. Hod, who became an American citizen in May 1996. “When they all finally came onto the court in the same game I couldn’t believe it. I was screaming. It was something so rare and so magical.”
Lior and Janet Hod also have a daughter, Samantha Hod Locke, who like her brothers had a distinguished high-school basketball career at the Frisch School in Paramus. Now 25, Ms. Locke works in her father’s Teaneck-based healthcare information technology business, Ellkay.
To fully appreciate the Hod family basketball legacy, you have to go back to 1980, when Dov and Rivi Hod moved their family from the working-class Israeli coastal city of Holon to Atlanta, Georgia. Dov Hod opened a Middle Eastern-style restaurant there; it failed within a year.
Lior and Ayal, then 15 and 14, respectively, refused to go back to Israel with their parents and younger brother and sister. The tall youths were well on their way to basketball stardom at Cross Keys High School by then.
“For seven years, we and our parents didn’t see one another,” Mr. Hod said.
Living in their family’s Atlanta apartment and working lots of odd jobs to make ends meet while skirting immigration authorities, the brothers somehow got by. Lior graduated from high school in 1984 and was offered a two-year scholarship to a Baptist college.
But that summer, a YU alumnus saw him play ball at the local JCC and got in touch with the legendary Jonathan Halpert, the longtime YU basketball coach for whom the Macs’ court is now named.
Mr. Halpert got in touch with the teenager, who came from a secular background and had never heard of Yeshiva University. A full scholarship was pieced together by YU and a prominent Atlanta rabbi, Emanuel Feldman, approached donors on their behalf.
“Jonny picked me up at LaGuardia Airport, and the Halperts became like my parents. Because of him I am religious now,” Lior Hod said. The family belongs to the Young Israel of Teaneck.
A year later, Ayal followed his brother to YU. Every summer, the brothers returned to Atlanta to hone their game in summer leagues that included NBA players.
Not long after Lior and Janet wed in 1989, the Israeli branch of the Hod family started moving in with the newlyweds. “My wife is an angel,” Mr. Hod said.
The Hod children played basketball and soccer while growing up in Teaneck. “I used to go to every one of my kids’ practices at Frisch, both JV and varsity,” Mr. Hod continued. “I’ve been taping their games for the past 10 years and taught them from an early age how to improve by studying their mistakes. I taught them that losing is an opportunity to learn how to get better the next time.”
Mr. Hod, now 51, uses sports as a motivator in life.
“Sports teach you how to think and how to respect others’ feelings,” he said. “In order to be a good athlete — or good in anything — you have to prepare and you have to treat everyone with respect. On the court it’s not about the score; it’s about making sure that when people look at you they respect you for who you are. You have to have good values, and that’s what we gave our children. Really, all the credit goes to my wife.”
Last December, 5-foot–10 Jordan Hod was chosen the male student athlete of the month at YU. In an interview with a university publication, he talked about what it means to him to play on a team whose heads are topped with yarmulkes.
“I love the fact that when I step on the court I represent more than myself,” he said. “I represent all the Jewish people both as an athlete and as a Jew. For many of the athletes and fans that we compete against, it is their first time encountering a Jew.
“I love being able to prove others wrong and show that Jews aren’t just great people, but also great athletes.”