Attention Lawrence Frank, Vince Carter, Jason Kidd, et al.: Coach Van thinks you have what it takes to win it all. And he should know after all, the coach of the Moriah School’s seventh-grade basketball team has brought 14 titles to the North Jersey yeshiva elementary school in his ” years at the school. And his team just notched another with a two-point victory over HAFTR in this season’s championship.
"I like the Nets in this year’s playoffs," said Coach Van (His full last name is VanBenschopen) from his office at Moriah on the eve of game five of the Nets’ playoff series against the Indiana Pacers, "as long as Vince Carter is on."
Coach Van, however, is not one to stress individual performances. Given the opportunity to trumpet his team’s key players, he praised his entire roster, saying, "We had a lot of good players."
That much is obvious. The team went 1′-0 this year, including the playoffs, and the championship game win, which was held at a neutral site, the North Shore Hebrew Academy, will help this year’s seventh graders establish momentum when they form next year’s eighth grade team.
For years, the seventh and eight graders played on the same team. However, they were split up a few years ago "to give more boys the opportunity to play," said Coach Van.
"You tend to try to keep the eighth graders [who try out], since it’s their last year in school," Coach Van added. "The seventh grade league gives the younger kids a chance to play."
Moriah’s eighth grade team also made the playoffs this year under Coach Joe Schwartz. While those players will go on to help their future high schools’ respective basketball teams, the seventh grade champions will give Schwartz more than enough material to work with next season.
"I’m sure they have a really good shot at winning it all again next year," Coach Van said of this year’s seventh grade team. "The seventh graders know they’re being prepped for the eighth grade team. The coaching, and how they take the coaching, is the same on both teams."