After two years of competing against each other in high school basketball, a pair of Penn Valley brothers get to be on the same side as they play for Team USA at the World Maccabiah Games in Israel this July.
The only thing more intriguing than two brothers competing over a woman is two brothers competing in a sport. Just ask the hundreds of reporters who tried their hardest to turn this year’s Super Bowl into a reality show about the Harbaugh brothers, the coaches of the opposing teams.
The Main Line has enjoyed its own brotherly sports rivalry — this one in hoops — over the last two years between Matt Sherman, a senior captain and point guard at Harriton High School, and his younger brother, Corey, a sophomore sixth man on the varsity team at Lower Merion High School.
This summer, at the World Maccabiah Games in Israel, the brothers will be on the same side — playing for Team USA — but they’ll still be on different teams. Matt will be on the 18-and-under team; Corey on the 16 and under. It will be a welcome change for Adam and Michele Sherman, the parents who had to remain neutral through three games between their sons’ rival high schools over the last two years.
Before their first encounter, Michele made the boys shake hands and pose for a picture in their kitchen. Their sister, Mackenzie, painted each half of her face in the respective school’s colors.
“I was always nervous how they would act when they would come home,” said Michele Sherman. “But they were both very composed. They would play the game and then move onto the next one.”
With this basketball season over and Matt’s high school career nearly behind him, both parents and sons are looking ahead to this summer’s games in Israel, when teams from around the world will compete in the quadrennial Jewish Olympics taking place in July.
“I think it’s going to be really cool to wear that U.S. jersey,” said Corey Sherman, 16.”I’ve never had the opportunity to represent my country in this kind of fashion, and hopefully we can win the gold.”
Of the 16 players on his Team USA, three are his Lower Merion schoolmates — freshmen Michael Berg, Jeremy Horn and Eli Needle.
The Sherman boys grew up playing in recreation leagues together and in two JCC Maccabi Games, which take place each summer in different parts of the United States. At the 2011 games in Philadelphia, they were on the same team, winning a bronze medal, and last summer, in Rockland County, N.Y., they won a silver.
“We have a good relationship and we push each other when we’re working out and on the court,” said Matt Sherman, 17.
How is it that two boys who grew up in the same house, less than two years apart, ended up at different public high schools? The short answer is basketball.
Though their Penn Valley home is closer to Harriton, the Shermans sat down with their sons two years ago and suggested that it might be best for both if Corey attended Lower Merion rather than Harriton, where Matt had already established himself as a star.
“Corey would have had to deal with the legacy that his brother created already,” Adam Sherman said.
The family’s proposal to send Corey to Lower Merion needed approval at the highest levels of the district because normally a student’s public high school is determined by his home address.
Both boys have since enjoyed great success — Corey’s Lower Merion team won a state championship this year; Matt scored more than 1,000 points in his career and his team’s standings improved from winning nine games in his freshman year to 14 this year, coming within one game of the state tournament.
Matt also earned a chance to play at the collegiate level; he won’t be far from home at Haverford College.
“This year was pretty special,” said Matt, who served as captain of his team.“I think we really benefited from letting each other blossom at different places.”
His brother agrees. “Maybe it was for the best,” said Corey. “I’m very happy with how things have worked out. I’m glad he had a chance to flourish in his own way over there.”
The brothers both became B’nai Mitzvah at Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley and were active at the Kaiserman JCC in Wynnewood. Matt Sherman first visited Israel in 2009, when he played off the bench for the gold medal-winning 16-and-under Maccabiah team. He was one of the younger guys on the team and though he played sparingly, he said he benefited from playing with older teammates.
“It was my first experience in Israel,” he said. “I immediately knew going there that it wouldn’t be my last. I was at an age where I didn’t understand and appreciate it as much as I will this summer.”
Watching from the stands then were Corey, Mackenzie and their parents. Corey said he enjoyed seeing the different style of play from European teams, which featured big men who could shoot jump shots.
“I’m looking forward to the opening and closing ceremonies and getting a chance to trade gear with other countries, but we’re there to win,” Corey said. “That’s the No. 1 priority. The stuff off the court just gets better when you win.”