Orthodox hoopster skips big game for Shabbat


NEWARK, Delaware, March 5 (JTA) – Add Tamir Goodman’s name to the small Hebrew School sports pantheon.

Like baseball star Sandy Koufax – who refused to pitch in the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur – Goodman refused to compete in a post-season tournament game because it conflicted with a more frequent Jewish holiday: Shabbat.

Last weekend, Goodman, who plays for the Towson University basketball team, skipped the first game and a half as his Baltimore school competed in the America East tournament for a berth in the larger NCAA tourney.

To those who know the Goodman story, it didn’t come as a surprise.

An Orthodox Jew who wears his yarmulke on the court, Goodman first made headlines a few years ago, when the University of Maryland – where Goodman seemed likely to play – said it would try not to schedule any basketball games on Shabbat during his tenure with the team.

The subject of a profile in Sports Illustrated magazine, Goodman – dubbed “the Jewish Jordan” – became a media darling.

After Goodman injured his knee, however, Maryland appeared to back down from its scholarship commitment, and the team and the player parted ways.

Playing in the less-prestigious America East conference with Towson, Goodman suffered some growing pains this year. He averaged only 6 points and 4 assists as his team struggled to a record of 11-16 and finished seventh in the league during the regular season.

But as the season progressed, Goodman did move into the team’s starting lineup at point guard.

Goodman has “court vision, a feel for the game and the ability to make everyone better,” Towson coach Mike Jaskulski says.

Goodman showed glimpses of these strengths in his limited action over the weekend.

Without the 6-foot-3, 155-pound Goodman, Towson barely squeaked by in its first-round game against Hartford, 65-62.

That set up a match Saturday evening against heavily favored Delaware. The conference refused to switch the game to a later time slot because it would have forced Delaware, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, to play with less rest Sunday if it defeated Towson.

The Tigers struggled, falling behind by 15 at the half. Goodman arrived at the stadium at halftime after Shabbat ended.

The gangly Goodman quickly gave the team a spark, hitting a three-point shot and providing a perfect pass that led to a slam dunk – and oohs and aahs from the crowd.

But there were no miracles. Towson fell, 66-51.

If the team’s record wasn’t up to par, the Goodman experiment apparently was.

Outside of the tournament, Towson played no games between sundown Friday and Saturday, and Goodman was excused from Saturday afternoon practices.

Once, when the team was on the road and sundown was approaching, Goodman got out of the team van and walked three blocks to a house where he was staying for Shabbat.

“They see me fasting on some days, and they learn about Havdalah and kosher food,” Goodman says. “It’s a great opportunity to teach them about Judaism.”

Jaskulski, who now keeps a Jewish calendar on his wall, agrees.

“As the guys see Tamir practice religion, their respect for him grows,” he says.

Goodman also says he enjoyed rooming with fellow first-year player Mohammed Fofana, a Muslim from Mali, Africa.

The two don’t talk much politics, but stick to basketball, Goodman says.

“When I put on my tefillin in the morning to daven,” Goodman says, referring to ritual items used by observant Jews at prayer, “he’s very respectful. He’s probably listening to” rap star Tupac Shakur.

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