- Upper Division
By Matan Halzel, Varsity Assistant Coach
It’s hard to believe that the end of last year’s Denver JDS Varsity Boys season came to a close on March 7, 2020. Four days later, the NBA season was paused and shut down, and the next day on March 12, 2020, all high school basketball activities were shut down, and the 2020 season was postponed. The season ended with the Final 4 left unplayed, and Briggsdale, the team that defeated Denver JDS in the Sweet 16, was one of those Final 4 teams left.
That was less than a year ago, but it sure feels like a lifetime ago. It also feels strange because that 2020 Varsity Boys postseason run was the last bit of normalcy many of us in the Denver JDS community were able to experience. The COVID-19 pandemic began changing our lives five days after that Sweet 16 game, and for a long time, many people were wondering if there would even be Colorado High School Basketball season. Thankfully, an agreement was reached on a sunny December day for a season, and within minutes, there a buzz among the Varsity Boys basketball team at Denver JDS. For the first time in a long time, a slice of normalcy was coming back into their lives.
When the news broke out that an agreement had been reached between CHSAA and the CDPHE, no one was more ecstatic than Denver JDS Senior and Varsity Boys Team Captain, Jonathan Kochavi.
“I almost couldn’t believe it,” said Jonathan. “I had been waiting for that announcement since the first day of school. When my coaches texted me that there we were officially having a season, I can’t describe how happy I was. This season is about to be so much fun.”
Jonathan made the All-League 5280 1st Team last year as a Junior, averaging 18.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG, and 1.3 BPG. Jonathan has also been training hard the entire offseason, to become an even better player, and he can’t wait to get the season started.
The other Senior and Team Captain on this year’s Varsity Boys team is Emmett Wechsler. Emmett like many others had doubts that there would be a 2021 season at all, but he is beyond thankful for the opportunity to play and is not taking the season for granted.
“Jon and I were starting to get nervous as the month of November came and went, we just wanted to have a shot at our Senior season,” said Emmett. “Now that it’s actually happening, sometimes I have to take a step back and just smile. This team could be so special, and I’m ready to be a leader and step up more than ever.”
Emmett is widely known as the team’s “glue-guy”. He’s always the player directing traffic on the court, and picking up anyone when they’re down. Emmett is best known for his leadership, character, and of course, his passing skills, and they are contagious to his teammates. He was second on the team last year averaging 3.3 assists per game, behind this year’s Sophomore point guard, Gavin Foonberg, who set an all-time Denver JDS season record for assists with 80 total assists.
The 2021 Varsity Boys team does look a little different compared to last season. They did lose three seniors - Eitan Kochavi, David Rafailov, and Elan Perryman - who were all key parts of last year’s Varsity Boys team. But there are various new players anxiously waiting for their turn to step in and step up their games, and the heart and identity of last year’s team remain intact for the 2021 season.
“I am beyond thankful that all of our high school students who signed up for basketball this season get the chance to play,” said Denver JDS Athletic Director, Josh Lake. “But I am also thankful that I hopefully get to watch this core play together for one more season. Our 2020 Varsity Boys played the game the right way and made the extra pass every time. Jonny Kochavi, Emmett Wechsler, and Gavin Foonberg are special players, and there is a lot of additional talent coming in on this year’s team too.”
There is already a serious buzz about this year’s Varsity Boys team in our school community, and it shows even beyond it as well. Denver JDS checked in at #17 in the state for the 1A Class on the Colorado Preseason Rankings for the 2021 season, receiving 42 votes from coaches across Colorado. The players appreciate the respect, but they are hungry to advance past the Sweet 16 this season and make school history.
However, it won’t be easy. The defending 5280 League Champions, Mile High Academy, check in at #1 on the Preseason Rankings. In addition, a very talented Belleview Christian team was listed at #8 on the Preseason Rankings. The 5280 League is very talented this season, and there are no district tournaments this season - making this regular season quite possibly the toughest in the history of the 5280 League.
“We’re going to be playing for our school community this season, the students, parents, teachers, last year’s DJDS seniors who lost their last baseball season, everyone,” said Jonathan Kochavi. There’s so much to play for this season, and we’re about to take the meaning of the word ‘Mishpacha’ (family) to a whole new level.”
The Denver JDS Varsity Boys Basketball team is ready, and they’re up for the challenge.
We hope you’ll watch their home games this season by tuning in to our official Livestream YouTube channel and downloading their full schedule below. All live streams will begin on the YouTube channel 15 minutes before each game starts. You'll find the Livestreaming link and full schedule link below: