Noah Gottlieb, Santa Monica College’s all-conference point guard, was honored when selected to the United States team for the European Maccabiah Games this summer.
The Maccabiah Games promote Jewish bonding through athletic competition.
As a community college player on a squad with teammates from four-year universities he seemed likely to be a reserve.
However, Gottlieb’s role changed dramatically when Derek Glasser from Arizona State University unexpectedly didn’t make the trip to Rome. Suddenly, Gottlieb was the primary U.S. ball-handler – a youngster one year removed from playing for Venice High now going against 30-year-old veterans of international basketball.
The play was extremely physical, the gymnasium hot – about 104 degrees throughout the competition. The gym, Stella Azzure, wasn’t air-conditioned.
But Gottlieb averaged 18 points and helped the U.S. win four of six games to earn the bronze medal.
“My goal was the gold but we did win a medal and I think we did as well as we could have,” said Gottlieb, who was back in the SMC gym last week playing ball and lifting weights following the flight home.
“We were assembled in Philadelphia just 10 days before the games began and some of our competitors played at the highest levels in their countries. The age limit was 34 and there were several players over 30.
“Overall, it was a great experience for me. I met Jewish people from all over the world.”
Gottlieb was knocked down numerous times when calls weren’t made. Against Germany he shot 12-of-12 free throws to lead a comeback win from a 15-point deficit. But more often he absorbed contact without getting to the foul line.
“I kept my poise,” he said. “I didn’t get any technical fouls.”
France won the gold medal, Russia the silver and USA the bronze. The other teams who competed were Germany, Turkey, Austria and Italy.
In the tournament’s final game France defeated the U.S. by five points in overtime. “It was the best game of the tournament,” said Gottlieb.
The experience was especially rewarding for Noah because his parents, Louis and Joyce, were in attendance along with his brother, Max.
Gottlieb wishes to play for a four-year school and his ability to fare well against quality opposition in the Maccabiah Games should help his chances. However, if he doesn’t sign with a four-year school before next season he plans to play another year for SMC.