GOLDEN GIRL: Former Princeton University women’s basketball player Abby Meyers displays the gold medal and MVP trophy she earned after helping the U.S. open female team to victory at the Maccabiah Games in Israel. Meyers posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds in the gold medal game in an 88-55 win over Israel and averaged 18.4 points a game at the tournament. Star guard Meyers, the Ivy Player of the Year in her senior season last winter, will be playing for the University of Maryland in the 2022-23 campaign as a graduate transfer.
By Justin Feil
Abby Meyers passed up the chance to play in the Maccabiah Games in 2017 in order to prepare to start her career for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.
Now at the tail end of her college career, Meyers made the most of another opportunity to compete in the Maccabiah Games this summer as she joined the United States open female team for the event. Meyers averaged 18.4 points per game and was named Most Valuable Player while leading the U.S. open women’s team to the gold medal at the Maccabiah Games.
“Just coming back and showing my family the medal, showing my grandmother the MVP trophy, it definitely is a very special thing to win gold representing Team USA and bring back the hardware,” said Meyers, a 6’0 guard who hails from Potomac, Md.
“What I learned going to Israel in the first place though was I thought it was going to be all about basketball and winning that gold medal. It’s an important part, but ultimately it was a small part of the overall experience.”
Meyers had not played overseas before competing in the Maccabiah Games and she had not yet visited Israel. The chance to combine the two made for a remarkable experience.
“What I most valued from it was getting to meet other Jewish athletes from all over the world, going to the Dead Sea, going to the Yad Vashem, which is the Holocaust Memorial site, and taking the whole experience in,” said Meyers of the competition which brings together 10,000 athletes from 85 countries taking part in 45 sports. “And I still happened to play basketball. It was awesome.”
The U.S. squad looked awesome as it dominated the Maccabiah competition, which also included Israel and Australia, with wins by more than 28 points on average over their four games. Meyers posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds in the gold medal game in an 88-55 win over Israel.
“Going into the Games, we know we’re better than them, we know we have more skill and more size and more talent than the Israeli and Australian teams that we were playing, but at the end of the day the goal was to prove that we’re just a really good basketball team,” said Meyers. “That’s how we beat them, not that they were bad teams. They were great teams. Our overall skill set, we found some really talented Jewish athletes from the U.S. this year. It’s a credit to coach Sherry Levin. Hopefully we were able to prove that we’re a really good team playing another good team.”
The Maccabiah Games served as a go-between for Meyers’ basketball career. She wrapped up her Princeton career as just the third All-American in program history, and has been preparing for one final graduate season at Maryland. In the final two days before departing for Israel, she had an unexpected final workout at Princeton’s Jadwin Gym with Team USA.
“It definitely felt weird being back,” said Meyers, who finished her final season with the Tigers as the unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year after averaging 17.9 points a game and scoring a program-record 538 points on the year and leading Princeton to the Ivy League crown and a first-round NCAA tournament win over SEC tourney champion Kentucky.
Since that triumphant finish to her Tiger career, Meyers has been busy. After graduating from Princeton, she and fellow grad Marge Donovan took a sightseeing trip to Europe for two weeks before Meyers began focusing on the next step in her basketball career. She spent two weeks working out at Maryland, where she had the chance to meet future teammates, impress the coaches in person, and adjust to a new school.
“It was back to business,” said Meyers. “I did training. I did lifts with the team. I did individual skills workout with them and got used to the Xfinity Center aura. From there, I went right to Princeton for the training camp for Maccabiah and then to Israel. It’s really exciting. It was definitely a busy month of basketball and I think it was a good little distraction before moving in next week.”
The training camp at Princeton gave Team USA a chance to blend their talents together and work toward reaching their potential. They took advantage of their time together on and off the court to become a gold-medal unit.
“We were able to get double workouts in and we practiced well in Israel,” said Meyers. “We had a great group of girls with amazing personalities and they all meshed well together. Because of that we were able to develop really great chemistry really fast. That helped us peak on the 24th for the gold medal match.”
Meyers and her U.S. teammates had a unique chance upon arrival in Israel to absorb some of the cultural experiences before focusing on basketball again. A one-week tour program called Israel Connects gave players from the U.S. Maccabiah Games delegation new sights every day.
“It was just a time where we were able to enjoy these amazing experiences with people all over just like us, our age, many of whom it was their first time in Israel or second or they’re Jewish Orthodox and they know way more than we do,” said Meyers. “It was a great opportunity to experience it with other Jewish athletes. Every day was a different place and different experience.”
The team visited the Roman ruins of Caesarea, the Dead Sea, visited the solemn sight of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and went to Mount Masada.
“All these places have significance and we had a tour guide for each one to talk us through it,” said Meyers. “Us and men’s soccer also volunteered at a five-year-old hospital just outside of Tel Aviv where we split into groups with young kids and the groups were created to educate them about vital signs and nutrition and what’s good to eat before workouts and what’s not. There was some physical activities involved, we played basketball and soccer with them. They really drained us the first week with a lot of activities.”
Then came the Maccabiah Games, and winning the gold together added to the overall experience of Meyers and her team. Meyers is now preparing to make the move to nearby Maryland.
“I feel like as a fifth-year I have more experience, I have that upper edge over some of the younger underclassmen that I can hopefully teach and mentor,” said Meyers. “I’m going into this whole last year of college basketball with an open mind and excited about the challenge. I know it’s going to be different. It’s not going to be the same experience as Princeton, so I’m going to have to be uncomfortable and embrace that. I’m excited for the higher level of basketball and it’s close to home for me and I’ll be with Marge and able to support her. I’m very excited for it.”
Meyers will jump into the Big Ten and use her game to help the Terrapins. She is grateful for the experience gained over four-plus years at Princeton, with the first portion of her career under current North Carolina coach Courtney Banghart and the final two seasons under Carla Berube.
“Princeton all in all is a high caliber school and athletic program,” said Meyers. “I think especially this past year Coach Berube really challenged us with a tough out of conference schedule. We played Texas. We played Rhode Island. We played Florida Gulf Coast. We played a lot of great teams. In terms of the actual talent, yeah there will be bigger girls in the Big Ten, a little bigger and a little faster, but I’ve definitely grown up playing against that caliber of players so I don’t think that is going to be what sets Princeton apart. What sets Princeton apart is the discipline and accountability and expectation that coaches and fellow players hold you to.”
Meyers, who will pursue a master’s degree in business and management, joins a Maryland team with NCAA title aspirations. She is looking to step in as a leader in the same way that she did at the Maccabiah Games. She looks forward to the next step in her career after a successful run at Princeton navigating the rigors of academics and athletics.
“It requires a higher level of motivation, and higher level of determination and discipline that Princeton I think has prepared me and taught me,” said Meyers.“ I don’t think any other program outside Princeton and the Ivy League could have prepared me for, and I think that is definitely going to help me.”