by Tamara Stokes
The Jewish and basketball communities in Dallas have something to
cheer about as the interests of both converge at Yavneh Academy. Yavneh's
Bulldogs have bragging rights to the 6-foot, 2-inch frame of senior
Ian "Itzy" Ribald. Already making history for the Dallas day school
as an All-State player, he may make Texas high school basketball history
as one of the top 15 all-time shooters of all time.
Texas Basketball magazine named Ribald to the publication's
2002-2003 Boys All-State Selection First Team, which ranks players
without regard to classification or size of their schools.
With an answer that warms every parent's heart, Ribald told DJW
his all-time basketball idol is his father, Dr. Max Ribald. "I guess
you're looking for me to name someone famous, but I have to say that
I look up to my dad the most," says Ribald.
Ribald, unlike some gifted high school athletes, is humble and accommodating.
He does not take his religion, his status as a leader, and his athletic
ability for granted, and gives the glory to his heritage and to G-d.
"My dad put the first hoop in my crib when I was a baby and when
I was older, I watched him compete in the local Jewish Community Center
men's leagues. I listened to audience and teammates say how good he
Ribald made another atypical super athlete/teenaged response when
asked who has been the most influential person is his life. "My grandmother,
Helen Tenenbaum, who is 80. She's a Holocaust survivor and lives with
us. She has taught me so much about being strong and how important
it is to have faith in G-d," says Itzy.
"I was pretty hard on him when he was a freshman," says Head Coach
Chad Baruch. "I think he has a good future ahead of him in college
Ribald is the Yeshiva University National Three-Point Shootout Champion
and Tourney (2001 and 2002). He hopes to keep the title a third year
when the Bulldogs return to New York for the annual event in March.
Baruch, who has coached at Yavneh for six years and was the former
head coach for the University of Dallas basketball team, says he enjoys
his job. "Taking kids to a higher level of competition is fun," but
adds, "I'm not for everyone."
Assistant Coach Zack Pollack, a full-time marketing associate for
the Fort Worth Brahmas semi-professional hockey team, confirms Baruch's
statement. "We lost several players this year to an alternative league.
Coach Baruch expects discipline and for students to work to the best
of their ability."
Ribald says that Coach Baruch has helped the team learn that practicing
their faith by keeping the Sabbath can open more opportunities.
Two years ago, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools
(TAPPS) stopped scheduling Yavneh games on Thursdays, which accommodate
the modern Orthodox school's worship schedule. To remain in the league,
Yavneh would have to compete on Fridays and Saturdays with the rest
of the private schools.
Coach Baruch, with school and parent support, severed ties with the
association - with surprising results. Although not formally recognized
and operating as independents, the Bulldogs now compete against much
larger, even 5A, schools whose talent pool is correspondingly much
larger than Yavneh's.
Schools on the Bulldog schedule include Wills Point, 5A schools St.
Mark's, Wilmer-Hutchins ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Diamond Hill, Adamson,
North Dallas High, Dallas Academy, Castleberry and the other private
schools they formerly played against.
According to the team's Web-site newsletter at www.hotwired.com,
"The Bulldogs achieved the biggest win in school history by stunning
Sunset High School, a 5A public school. Yavneh built a double-digit
lead in the first half, only to see Sunset storm back in the second
half and force overtime. With the score tied 51-51, and two seconds
remaining in the overtime, the Bulldogs inbounded the ball under the
Sunset basket. Itzy Ribald hit Gavi Wolk cutting back door to the
basket, and Wolk caught and shot the ball in one motion to hit the
winning basket at the buzzer. The win was the first for Yavneh over
a 5A public high school. Ribald paced the Bulldogs with 32 points."
The Internet site provides the team's roster, schedule and statistics.
Pollack, who keeps the team's statistics, says Ribald's average points
per game is 32, but his highest scoring game was 59 points against
Hyman Brand in Kansas City. Year-to-date, Ribald has scored 2,801
career points and is on track to break 3,000. There are 11 games left
in the season, and Ribald's team is pulling for him.
"In two games matched head-to-head with Roland Turner of Dallas Academy,
Itzy scored 39 and 42 points while holding one of the top guard prospects
in Dallas to 27 and 16," says Coach Baruch.
Dr. Ribald says certain values translate through practice in both
religion and sports. "Through practicing skills for either faith or
a sport, young people learn to apply their passion to what they do,
learn that a good work ethic pays off and that selflessness and a
team effort are ultimately more important than the individual."
Itzy says that he first began to be fiercely competitive about basketball
playing against his brothers, four and eight years older. He says
that even parents and students at other schools have told us "we couldn't
compete with larger private schools. Then, they said we couldn't compete
with 5A schools. We've worked so hard, against the odds, and I hope
we can keep proving people wrong," says Ribald.
Being well known on the basketball court has good and bad points.
"A lot of other players know who I am and something is usually said
about me during the games," says Ribald. "But sometimes, it's annoying
because the other players know who to watch for."
Bulldogs freshman Simon Chafetz says that breaking from TAPS proved
Yavneh can still turn out all-state players. "It's something incredible,"
says Chafetz, about Ribald's success and about the success of his
Ribald says that no matter how successful he has been or will be
depends on the support of his teammates. "I couldn't be where I am
without the other players. Ben Kogutt and Gavi Wolk work to make us
Baruch says, "Sometimes Jewish kids are convinced they cannot compete
at a high level. I've convinced them (the Bulldogs of Yavneh) that
we can play anyone, anywhere. When we've lost, it's only been by 4
or 5 points," says Baruch.
"Senior Itzy Ribald is the greatest player in Yavneh history. With
NBA shooting range and deceptive speed to the basket, he has been
termed 'a scoring machine' by one prominent area coach. He is one
of the most explosive scorers among high school players in Texas.
For the second consecutive season, Itzy was named to Texas Basketball
Magazine's Texas All-State Team. He is considered by many to
be among the elite collegiate prospects in Texas. Itzy is on pace
to graduate as one of the top 25 career scorers in Texas high school
basketball history, ahead of former Texas high school standouts like
Shaquille O'Neal, Jimmy King, and Chris Bosh."
Single Game Points - 54
Season Points - 86
Season Scoring Average - 27.8
Season Steals - 113
Career Points - 1,916
Single Game Field Goals - 20
Single Game Free Throws - 16
Single Game 3-Pointers - 9