Off The Court With Joel Gutovitz: University of Kansas

This week, I had the opportunity to speak with one of our amazing NHBT players—Joel Gutovitz. Joel is a sophomore at the University of Kansas on a pre-med track with a focus in human biology and a minor in business. Joel took time off from his very busy schedule to speak with me about some of his favorite experiences from the National Hillel Basketball tournament. Here’s what he had to say.

How many years have you participated in the National Hillel Basketball Tournament?

Last year was my first year at the tournament, but I am returning this year and I couldn’t be more pumped!

What made you decide to sign up last year?

I love basketball and I love Jewish people (all people as well, but just a little bit extra love for the NJBs and NJGs of the world). NHBT provides the perfect environment for exactly those two things—basketball and Jews.

What is your favorite part of NHBT?

My absolute favorite part of NHBT is hanging out with my friends and family from home while also getting the chance to meet awesome new people from around the country. Anyone who participated in the Maccabi games back in high school knows that getting together with hundreds of fellow Jews for a weekend of sports is way more than just a weekend of sports. Sure, basketball is a key part of NHBT but what goes on beyond the court is what makes the experience so memorable. We have Shabbat, we have meals, we have social opportunities, and so much more. I encourage members of all teams to embrace the environment. Tenacity is what makes the time on the court fun, but friendliness off the hardwood is what will guarantee a memorable weekend. When you see Kansas, please come say “what’s up” and feel free to ask us if we drive tractors to school or if we know Dorothy. Most of all, let’s have an awesome time together at NHBT!

What was it like to spend Friday night with hundreds of different Jewish students from across the country?

It was very powerful to see so many tournament participants dressed in Shabbat attire rather than basketball shorts and jerseys. It was kind of symbolic of everyone putting aside the competitive tensions of the games, and just embracing one another as fellow members of the Jewish community.

What did you take away from the tournament weekend?

The tournament weekend ensures that each participant leaves Maryland with several new friends, battle wounds and bruises from some intense basketball, and lots of new Facebook pictures from the tournament’s incredible photography team. Most importantly the tournament left me with an immense appreciation for the Jewish value of global unity. It truly is incredible to see so many individuals come together as friends in such a short amount of time.

What can you recommend to new comers joining NHBT this year?

Destroy your cool card! Everyone is coming from all over the country for a weekend of basketball and fun. No one is too cool to befriend someone from another state or university. If everyone comes ready to compete on the court, and to goof around with some strangers off the court, then we will all have an incredible time. One more recommendation is definitely to hangout with the Kansas team, those guys know how to have a good time and I would hate for anyone to miss out on that.

Most importantly, what was your favorite swag accessory distributed?

The swag accessories are all pretty awesome. I’m a big fan of the jerseys!

It was such an awesome opportunity to speak with someone who is so passionate about NHBT. His excitement makes me even more excited for this year’s tournament.

Joel, I can’t wait to cheer you and your teammates on this year at NHBT’17!


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