Over the years, Eric R. Abel has endured quite a few tough injuries while playing basketball, a game he truly loves. The Owings Mills resident has torn the ACL in both of his knees and dealt with a torn Achilles tendon in his right foot.
But Abel, who turns 49 on July 2, keeps on playing, and it’s doubtful he will stop anytime soon.
“I’m a glutton for punishment,” he says with a laugh. “I’ve always been a basketball junkie.”
Abel has played basketball in many different places and venues, but he will hit the courts in a new location next week. The Chizuk Amuno congregant flies to Israel on July 4, to compete with the USA Masters Men’s 45+ Basketball team at the 20th World Maccabiah Games. The competition will be held in Jerusalem from July 4-18, and Abel will be the only basketball player from the Baltimore metropolitan area.
The Maccabiah USA team will bring more than 1,100 athletes to the Jewish state. There will be 10,000 Jewish athletes playing in 43 different sports from 80 different countries.
Todd Schayes is the head coach of Abel’s team, which features a dozen men on the roster.
“Team USA’s Masters Men’s 45+ basketball team is incredibly excited about the upcoming 20th World Maccabiah Games, as we try to secure the first Maccabiah gold medal for this age group,” Schayes said in a recent statement.
Abel, who played on the varsity basketball team at Franklin High School for two years in the mid-1980s, says he’s very much looking forward to being part of the competition. This will be his first trip to Israel, and Abel says he felt taking a shot at making this team would be good for him in a number of ways.
“I just thought it was kind of a great experience to both show your Jewish pride and compete at a high level,” Abel says
A married father of three, Abel is a partner with ValStone Partners, a private equity commercial real estate firm in Baltimore. He was one of the firm’s founders 19 years ago.
Despite his hectic schedule, Abel says he is on the basketball court two or three times a week, often at Brick Bodies Padonia, and usually competes as a guard who loves to fire up three-point shots. He says he developed a better three-pointer while training with his son, Jake, over the last four years.
Last October, Abel tried out for the American team for the Maccabiah Games in Denver. In March, he found out that he earned a spot on the team and would be heading for the Holy Land a few months later.
At the games, there will be a pool of six teams in this particular division. The teams will play each other in a round-robin format. After that, the top two teams will compete for the gold medal.
The contests in Jerusalem will be a bit different than the action here in Baltimore since international rules will be in place. For example, the lane on the court will be a little wider and the three-point line a bit further back — and it will likely be a more physical game, one of the trademarks of international basketball.
Abel says he does not know how much playing time he will have during the competition. That all will be determined in Israel, he says.
Abel says team members will also enjoy some traveling time in Israel. A tour guide will take them to such points of interest as Tel Aviv, Jerusalem’s Old City and Masada.
“I think it’s going to be special,” Abel says. “It’s going to be kind of a unique experience. There’s a lot of cultural meaning, and connecting that with basketball is going to make it a special time.”
Jeff Seidel is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
Photos of Eric Abel by Steve Ruark
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