Sunday, April 30, 2017

JNFL Draft and Outlook

Congrats to the Adam Bisnowaty out of Pitt who was drafted in the 6th round by the New York Giants who moved up to get him.

Gabe Marks, the PAC 12 all-time receptions leader, surprisingly went undrafted but did sign as a free agent with the Jets.

We are looking into Tarik Cohen's (Bears draft pick) MoT-ness. Do not trust random tweets :)

Also look for Mike Bercovici, who signed with the Chargers in January, to make the team. And potential long snapper Drew Ferris to catch on as well.

Current NFL Players:
Daniel Braverman - Bears
Nate Ebner - Patriots
 Julian Edelman - Patriots
Ali Marpet - Browns
Mitchel Schwartz - Chiefs 

Aaron Murray's father is Jewish but is believed to be a practicing Christian.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Interview: Olympian and Super Bowl Champion Nate Ebner

There are few Jewish athletes I have wanted to interview more than Nate Ebner. Not because he is the best Jewish athlete playing right now, but he might be the winningest. It seems like wherever Ebner goes success seems to follow. From his days at the legendary Ohio State Football program, to playing a vital role on the Super Patriots, to his Olympic rugby run Ebner is a tremendous athlete and winner. With the NFL draft, my favorite day of the year, drawing near we spoke with one of the NFL's best Jewish players of all-time.

1) What is it like playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes? Is the Michigan game as big of a deal for the players as it is for the fans?
Playing for Ohio State is an amazing experience.  More fans every Saturday than any other pro team or college team can say they have other than 1 or 2 exceptions.  It is also one of a couple of Universities that prepare you for the NFL at the level in which they do it.  Its nearly like playing professional ball the way meetings and practices and workout programs are handled.  The OSU Michigan game is a big deal for everyone, fans, players, coaches, the city of Columbus.  Its something you start talking about as soon as the football season is over and your starting to prepare for the next season.  We have a countdown clock that literally goes 365 waiting for the kickoff of “THE GAME.”  Every off season workout has some Michigan additive for motivation.  So when it comes time for the game it is as big of a deal as all the hype because its been hyped all year long and it doesn’t matter what you do all season if you lose that game its like having a losing season.  And a lot of the times, that game is very important because its at the end of the season when both teams have a lot on the line and need to win.

2) When did you realize that the NFL was a real possibility?
I realized the NFL was a real possibility after my senior season, having a great year on special teams, and my pro day at Ohio State where I put together a great day of numbers which would've put me among the top in the Combine in every single event we tested in.  
3) You went from one of the winningest college programs to one of the most storied NFL franchises. What similarities do OSU and New England share?
They are similar in regards to how hard we work.  At both places it has been extremely hard work… but its been worth it.  We meet a lot in both places, we break down opponents a lot, and we work extremely hard on the practice field and in the weight room.

4) What is the best part of being a Patriot? What was your favorite moment?
The best part of being a Patriot is being a part of a winning atmosphere that is a product of hard work made up of a bunch of really good people.  Listening to Coach Belichick talk about how were going to go about each week or each day is great to be a part of.  My favorite moment has to be winning the super bowl… twice! No question.  There’s nothing like it.
5) How does playing in the Olympics compare? Were the Patriots and the NFL supportive?
Playing in the Olympics compares in the sense that its the pinnacle of the sporting world, millions of people are watching between the television and the actual arena.  There’s also a lot on the line in both situations.  But there are a lot of differences between the two as well.  The Super Bowl is every year while the Olympics is only once every 4 years! And this was the first time rugby was in the Olympics since the 1920s!!! So in terms of “time” a lot more is riding on the Olympics. 

The Patriots were extremely supportive of me playing in the Olympics.  Did you see the shirts they all wore while my games were on!?  A lot of players throughout the team and league had reached out to me to wish me luck and let me know they’ve been keeping up and watching.  The Pats watched one of my games in the squad room as a team in between meetings and when I got back a lot of the players told me about it and what they thought and it was all very positive and supportive.
6) Would you consider playing rugby in the next Olympics? Is it hard to balance with the NFL?
I would definitely consider playing rugby in the next Olympics, however its a long ways a away and I have a lot of football in front of me until then so we will see when the time comes how my body is feeling or if its even in the cards.  But of course I’m always interested.  It was a long year last year going straight from an NFL season straight into training for rugby then touring the world trying to make the USA team and push myself to get myself where I needed to be physically to make that team.  Then go straight into another NFL season where we went all the way to the Super Bowl! So from a duration standpoint it was a grind at times, but I enjoyed every minute of it!
7) What was your Jewish life like growing up?
As a youngster I went to temple on Sundays with my dad.  We would celebrate the major holidays.  As I got older my football games were on Sundays so that interfered with going to temple.  I kept celebrating the holidays with family and still do when the football season doesn’t get in the way. 
8) Do you, Julian Edelman, Bob Kraft and Andre Tippett ever celebrate holidays together?
We have yet to do so. 
9) Outside of football and rugby is there anything else you work on; business, charity, etc?
I do as much charity with the Patriots Charitable Foundation as I can when I have time.  I also try to get into rugby as much as I can in my free time in the off season to help grow the sport.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

MiLB Signings

Ryan Kalish has re-signed a Minor League Contract with the Cubs.

Nate Freiman, of Team Israel fame, has signed with the Long Island Ducks

Jeremy Bleich has signed with the Somerset Patriots.

Sam Fuld's name has come up as a potential replacement for the Pirates injured Starling Marte. Let's hope!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Interview: Vassar Coach BJ Dunne

There are some really great Jewish sports stories in college basketball, especially with college coaches coming through the ranks. These coaches gather once a year during the Final Four for bagels and lox (not a joke). One of these terrific coaches is BJ Dunne who has been incredibly impressive in his young coaching career. He is the Head Men's Basketball coach at Vassar which is a Top 10 academic institution and recruits nationally. Earning the head coaching job at a young age comes with a lot of challenges but Coach Dunne has met them head on and thrived. It can't be easy as a young coach to command the players attention, let alone respect. But from hearing Coach Dunne's story there is a reason why he is so successful; personable, intelligent, and loves the game.

1) Tell TGR about yourself?
Grew up in Medfield, MA. Attended Bates College and have been the Head Men's Basketball Coach at Vassar College for the past four years. Currently live in Beacon, NY with my fiancé.

2) What got you interested in coaching basketball? Did you play first?
I have always been in love with the game of basketball. I was shooting hoops as soon as I could walk. My grandfather got me a UNC practice uniform when I was about 8 years old and I never took it off. Before my family had a basketball hoop I would shoot into a milk crate in my driveway. However, I thought my athletic career was going to take a different path-I had a lot of Division 1 interest for lacrosse but a shoulder injury my junior year of high school directed my recruitment towards basketball and it couldn't have worked out any better. I played for two of my closest friends in the coaching profession today, Joe Reilly and Jon Furbush at Bates College. Being a student-athlete in the NESCAC allowed me to fulfill my dreams of playing college basketball at the highest level in Division 3. My coaches mentored, developed and challenged me to attack my academics and athletics with relentless enthusiasm, passion and energy. My teammates became my extended family and my coaches and teammates helped shape my passion for coaching.

The summer heading into my senior year at Bates College I interned with the newly formed Maine Red Claws in the NBA D League. The experience I had with them was amazing-I had my hands in everything from ticketing, to promotion, to player personnel. I loved the player personnel piece. I used to sit in the President's office and we would break down NBA Summer League games and work on a list of players who would not make NBA rosters. I loved evaluating talent but I quickly realized that in this current role I would never truly engage or have the opportunity to work with the players on the floor. It was at that moment that my love for recruiting and the desire to be on the floor and coach was cultivated.

3) What has the journey been like to a head coaching job? Did you coach elsewhere?
I have been so lucky in my journey. I played for two great coaches but more importantly great people. I have had the opportunity to work for Coach Brennan at Babson-the 2016-17 National Coach of the Year and 2016-17 National Champions as well as Coach O'Brien at Emerson College, former Head Coach and National Coach of the Year at Ohio State. I am so thankful for the administration and support at Vassar College for hiring me at the age of 25, which made me the youngest coach in the country at all levels.When I made the transition to the first chair on the bench it was humbling and exciting. I wake up every day and I get to do what I love with some of the people who I love the most. My student-athletes make what I do so rewarding. They give me a purpose in life and the opportunity to make an impact every day is something I value over winning games. Just the other day one of my former players texted me to tell me he was accepted to Duke Law School-how awesome is that?!

4) What are your career goals? 
My first season as a head coach, I was 25 years old and we had the best season in program history. We won 19 games and advanced to the conference championship game and I was honored to be named the Conference Coach of the Year.I had people telling me I was headed here and there and I was on the fast track to the Division 1-someone even compared me to Brad Stevens-which was amazing because he an inspiration to me. Things were moving so fast for me it was hard to take a step back and enjoy the small victories in my life. I am getting married to my best friend, love of my life and best teammate I could ask for in June and we are so excited to start a family and have them grow up in a college environment. I am so proud of my fiancĂ© and it is special for me to watch her go after her dreams too.At the end of the day, I do have lofty career goals. I want to be remembered as the best Division 3 basketball coach ever. I love this level. It is the purest form of athletics where passions for sport extend into the classroom, community service and extracurriculars. While I have personal goals I also want to attend many of my players weddings, help them learn, grow and develop into leaders and watch them accomplish their dreams. Nothing means more to me than when one of them asks me to be a personal reference for an internship or job application.

5) What is the biggest challenge about coaching D3? How does your recruiting process differ from D1?
I think the biggest challenge is our time with our student-athletes is limited. We only can work with them in the gym from October-March (if we are lucky enough). I love being around my student-athletes-they are what make this job so much fun and rewarding for me. The more we can spend with them the more opportunity we have to not just improve them as basketball players but as people.

Our recruiting is so different from Division 1. I envy Division 1 coaches-they have a strict calendar and Division 3 is like the Wild, Wild West! We constantly feel pressured to be out almost every weekend beginning in April and finishing in August because if we are not out evaluating or showing a recruit love, our competition is. This takes us away from our family and friends and can honestly wear a coach down traveling and spending so much time in a gym. I hope at some point they regulate Division 3 recruiting. I think this will enhance the basketball that is being played and recruits won't get burnt out!

Our process also differs in the admissions process. Vassar has some pretty high academic standards-we are a top 10 Liberal Arts College so we have to find not only good basketball players but players who can be admitted on their own merit. Very little support in the application process is given by the coach and the only financial aid received is government based for what the family qualifies for. No scholarships for athletics are offered at our level.

And lastly, building a strong connection at our level is really important in the recruiting process. Unlike Division 1 where coaches can get on the phone and call their contacts, us Division 3 coaches really work to build and maintain relationships with our recruits and find out what they are about and what their interests are outside of basketball. They are playing at this level for the love of the game and the academic and post-college opportunities we can offer them. It is important to let them know I will do everything in my power to give them the best possible student-athlete experience and access to all that Vassar has to offer them.

6) What was your Jewish upbringing like?
My grandparents instilled a strong Jewish pride in me at an early age. We went to Temple on the high holidays and I attended religious school up until my Bar Mitzvah. After my Bar Mitzvah it was a challenge to continue to attend Temple because of my busy schedule but we always celebrated the high holidays.

Having an opportunity to serve as the Head Coach of Team USA at the European Maccabi Games ignited a new sense of pride in being Jewish. Being in Germany, the largest congregation of Jews in Germany since the Holocaust made me feel so proud to be Jewish, to represent my country and to be with so many others who shared the same religion and passion for sport. The way I would describe how my Jewish life folds into my coaching career is being proud of who I am. I've worked diligently to instill a sense of pride in our team. Being Jewish has allowed me to connect with something that is bigger than myself-we often ask that of our players too.

7) What else should people know about BJ Dunne and/or Vassar basketball?

We have a really strong group returning next season and we are very enthusiastic about our team's potential. We return 94% of our scoring and 86% of our minutes. We also return from injury one of the best players in the league and feature a strong recruiting class. Basketball has afforded me the opportunity to make some incredible friendships. I wouldn't have met my future wife if I was not a coach! Life is good-I hope that people work to celebrate the small victories in life, stay positive and live with tons of energy. Life is more fun that way and energy, passion and enthusiasm are highly contagious-share them!

8 in the BIGS

There are 8 MoTs on Opening Day MLB teams:

Joc Pederson - Dodgers
Craig Breslow - Twins
Ryan Braun - Brewers
Ty Kelly - Mets
Ian Kinsler - Tigers
Danny Valencia - Mariners
Scott Feldman - Reds
Alex Bregman - Astros

We do expect Richard Bleier and Brad Goldberg to be up during the season. And a high likelihood of seeing Ike Davis, Zach Borenstein, Ryan Lavarnway, Josh Zeid, Zach Thornton, and possibly Max Fried as well.