Torah Academy athlete chooses faith over game

 Messenger photos by Bob Garman

Columbus Torah Academy senior David Schmelzer leaps to make a shot against Veritas Academy during a game at CTA Jan. 19. Schmelzer is the leading scorer among Columbus area high school players, with a 32.6-point average per game, and is among the top 10 rebounders.

Bexley resident and high school senior David Schmelzer is sitting at the top of the list of the area’s leading basketball scorers, with an average of 32.6 points per game through 11 games.

His name might not be well-known because he and his family decided that a Jewish education was more imrpotant than attending a high-profile sports school.

Schmelzer, the son of Victor and Susan Schmelzer, is a student at Columbus Torah Academy on Noe Bixby Road, the only orthodox Jewish school in central Ohio.

The family moved from Cincinnati when David was ready to enter ninth grade to enroll him at the school where his brother, Sam, was already attending classes.

"Jewish education has always been a priority for our family," David explained.

His coach, Eddie Karmia, ranks David as one of the two top players he has worked with in his 14-year career.

He believes that David’s success on the court has remained a well-kept secret because he isn’t playing for a top-ranked school.

But that hasn’t kept the young man from improving and excelling.

David Schmelzer with coach Eddie Karmia, who ranks him one of the two best athletes he has worked with in his 14-year career. The coach believes Schmelzer’s skills have not been fully recognized because the Bexley resident chose to attend the school to further his Judaic education.

According to Karmia, David has progressed from being the 15th leading scorer in Columbus during his sophomore year to the third-leading scorer his junior year to this year’s top spot.

He surpassed 1,000 points during his junior year, and has a chance to reach 2,000 with six games and a tournament in Baltimore left on the schedule, Karmia said.

He had amassed 359 points through 11 games this season. He is also among the top ten rebounders, everaging 10.1 boards a game, and has hit 79 percent of his foul shots.

Karmia called David’s work ethic "exceptional" and commented that he is a leader among his peers.

David has followed in the footsteps of his father, who played basketball for a year at Yale University, and his brother, who played basketball, soccer and baseball at CTA.

David is also a triple-threat in soccer and baseball. He is active in the youth group at his synagogue, Ahavas Shalom, and maintains a grade point average between 3.8 and 4.0.

Karmia said he recognized the athlete’s talent during his freshman year.

"He handled the ball well, and he takes the ball to the basket," Karmia said.

The coach acknowledges that the level of competition faced by the CTA players is not the same as a Division I school.

But at the same time, David, because of his prowess, is continually double and triple-teamed by opposing defenses and still manages to put up impressive scores, Karmia added.

And David noted he has played against stiff competition during summer leagues and held his own.

Being at a prominent school could have garnered David more attention from sports writers and college scouts, Karmia said.

But for the Schmelzer family, their faith and the education of their children came first.

In addition to their academic subjects, students at Columbus Torah Academy have to keep up with their Judaic studies.

There is a dress code, and the sexes are segregated in many activities.

There are advantages. With only 50 students enrolled in the high school (CTA has students from kindergarten through high school) there is a lot of individual attention from teachers, David said.

With graduation looming, the young man has another decision to make.

He has been offered a scholarship by Yeshiva University in New York City, and is also considering Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He has also applied at Ohio State University. He has thought about studying medicine. His father is a heart surgeon.

Before enrolling in college, David is thinking about spending a year in Israel.

Karmia conceded that Schmelzer will be "deeply missed. And whatever endeavor he undertakes, we will be behind him 100 percent."

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