College of the Canyons men’s basketball coach Howard Fisher will return to international basketball competition once again after a 10-year hiatus.
Fisher is the head coach of the Youth Men’s Basketball team for Team USA at the 20th World Maccabiah Games, which will be held from July 4-17 in Israel.
Previously, Fisher coached Team USA’s Open Men’s Basketball teams in 2006 and 2007 at the Maccabi Australia International Games and 11th Pan American Maccabi Games, respectively. He brought home bronze in 2006 and silver in 2007.
The open teams consisted of men age 19 to 35. With the youth team, all 12 players must be born in either 1999 or 2000.
Working with teenage players made selecting the right team after the September tryouts a little bit more difficult.
“It was a challenge in that you didn’t know what level a player was going to be in nine months,” Fisher said. “A couple of them have grown a little bit. One, during the tryout, was 6-foot-3 ½, now he’s 6-6 ½. Boys’ bodies change.”
The team had a training camp in Georgia in May and will have a week to train in Israel before the games officially begin.
Creating team chemistry was another obstacle that Fisher and his coaching staff had to overcome.
“They’re coming from all across the country,” Fisher said. “A lot of them played on championship teams, and most of them were ‘the guy’ on that team.
“So trying to educate them on process, and as coaches we are trying to produce, trying to get them to understand that there’s an objective beyond each individual’s success.”
The Maccabiah Games, which are held every four years, have a focus on spreading Jewish pride. The games teach religious tolerance outside of and within Judaism.
“While some people have stronger convictions and believe certain things, you do what’s right for everybody,” Fisher said.
“And understanding that as a coach, I try to be inclusive and make sure that everybody is included to the best of my ability within the framework of the Sabbath … to different meals. These guys won’t eat a cheeseburger because you can’t mix dairy and meat. And these (other) guys will eat at In-n-Out.”
Regardless of religious practices, the team will be united on the court, with a gold medal in mind.
“It’s a unique way to make connections through culture, religion and through sport,” said Fisher.