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College Basketball

Terps preparing for 'Jewish Jordan'

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Posted: Sunday February 07, 1999 05:43 PM

  Despite heading to Maryland, Tamir Goodman will remain faithful to his Jewish religion. AP

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- Tamir Goodman's world consists of 11-hour school days, basketball and, above all, an uncompromising devotion to Judaism.

He adheres to a kosher diet and wears a yarmulke, even on the court. The Jewish religion deems that Saturday, the Sabbath, is a day of rest, meaning basketball is strictly forbidden.

Despite all this, the University of Maryland has made an oral commitment to give Goodman a basketball scholarship. Maryland rarely makes this offer to high school juniors, and never before has the institution extended such an invitation to an Orthodox Jew.

Goodman averages about 37 points a game for the Talmudical Academy, a Jewish day school near Baltimore that has an enrollment of only 72 students.

His basketball prowess has earned him the nickname "Jewish Jordan," and Maryland is convinced the 6-foot-3 guard has enough skill to make an impact in the same league (the Atlantic Coast Conference) as his namesake.

"He was recruited solely on his athletic talent," Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said.

While there is some question whether Goodman will excel at Division I, his father has no doubt Tamir (for whom dating is not an option) will remain faithful to his religion after entering a whole new world of female students, dormitories and avid fans.

"I can't see him straying. He's a very serious kid," Karl Goodman said. "He's going to be under a basketball microscope as well as a religious microscope. I don't think he would stray even if people weren't watching him, but they are."

Tamir's mother, Chava, constantly watches over him -- except during games. Because she is afraid of seeing him get hurt, Chava remains outside the arena during games, praying for his health. She enters only after the final buzzer.

"Here's how I know he's going to remain faithful to his religion at Maryland: He's a momma's boy," Karl Goodman said.

Tamir understands the situation perfectly.

"I know how much responsibility is now on my shoulders," he said.

Tamir Goodman is already a part of the scene at Cole Field House. He and his coach often sit in seats behind the Maryland bench during games, and more than a few fans jostle each other and point out The Jewish Kid.

 

After a recent game, Goodman and his coach, Harold Katz, sat in the floor seats in the emptied arena as Maryland assistant coach Billy Hahn assured Goodman that he will have kosher food on the table when he joins the team for the 2000-2001 season.

"This is a lot of work!" Hahn said. "But, of course, you're worth it."

Keeping Goodman fed is only a part of the task facing Maryland in the months ahead. More important, the Terrapins will try to avoid playing on Saturday afternoons.

"It's all unplowed soil," Yow said. "I've never gone through something like this before."

Goodman, similarly, already has initiated a different lifestyle. Since word got out about his future, he has been sought by media outlets ranging from Sports Illustrated to newspapers in Israel. A public relations firm was hired to handle the crush.

Goodman's life is now public property.

"I wanted to go to Maryland. I would definitely do it again this way," he said. "I've been dreaming about doing this for a long time. It's a good challenge for me and I like challenges."

He surely has one in the ACC. After all, scoring 33 points against Antioch High may not equate to success against the likes of Duke and North Carolina. Some think Goodman may end up in the third row of seats at Cameron Indoor Stadium if his 150-pound frame gets bumped under the basket during a battle for a rebound.

"A lot of people are going to owe Tamir an apology," Katz said. "They say, 'Look who he plays against.' I say, 'Who does he play with?' The other kids on the team try hard, but they don't have his talent."

That was evident last week. The school doesn't have a bus for road games, so the players arrange their own transportation. Goodman got lost, and by the time he showed up his team was trailing 20-4 late in the first quarter.

Goodman scored 45 points, including the winning tip at the buzzer.

"He has Pete Maravich tendencies. I took one look at him and I knew he was special," said Paul Baker, a scout and ex-college coach. "He sees the whole floor is an unerring shooter. If he grows, he has a chance to make a living playing basketball."

For that to happen, Goodman will have to overcome many obstacles, not the least of which will be playing under the constant scrutiny of a media machine that is already heavily into this unique story.

"I'm still only a kid," Goodman said. "I'm just Tamir."

 
Related information
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Previous edition of CNN/SI Week at a Glance: The Jewish Jordan
Terps vex Virginia, end 2-game skid
Seth Davis' College Basketball Mailbag: Midseason all-stars
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