As many of my loyal reads known, Brooklyn Baseball Banter is devoted to covering the Brooklyn Cyclones and some of the other teams that call MCU Park “home.” I wrote this article, but was unable to find a site to run it, so I decided to post it here.
On January 25th, 2017 the Yeshiva University Athletic Department put out a release on their website stating that the Hod Brothers, (Jordan, Justin, and Tyler) set a NCAA Division III first by having all three brothers appear as teammates in the same basketball game.* They also set a first for as all being on the court at the exact same time. This was met with some great publicity for the boys from Teaneck, NJ.
There is just one problem: It has happened before. It happened during the previous basketball season. It even happened in the same city.
Egzon, Edon & Pajtim Gjonbalaj of the Brooklyn College Bulldogs beat them to it last season.
The Brooklyn College Bulldogs entered the 2015-16 season with three Gjonbalaj brothers on the roster. The season opened against the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers, on Friday, November 13th at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. During the first game of the 2-day weekend tournament, at Egzon & Edon started for the Bulldogs, and Pajtim, known to many as “PJ” or “Poppy,” came in to play late in the game.
Seventeen days later, the Bulldogs, who were 5-0 at the time, made a trip out to Long Island for a non-conference matchup against the SUNY – Old Westbury Panthers. As usual, Egzon & Edon were in the starting lineup for Brooklyn College.
Up by 13 points with a few minutes left in the first half, Bulldogs Head Coach Rich Micallef called on Pajtim to check in to the game. At the 2:46 mark, Egzon went to the free throw line to shoot a pair. Edon was on the court as well for the Bulldogs. In between free throws, the buzzer sounded and Public Address Announcer Stu Johnson announced “Entering the game for Brooklyn College is #34, PJ Gjonbalaj.”
As a deeply devoted Bulldogs fan who had made the trip to Nassau County to cheer on my college team, I turned to my friend and said “It finally happened! We have a trio of Gjonbalaj on the court.”
When the article about the Hod brothers was brought to the attention off the Gjonbalaj brothers, all three of them were shocked by it.
Egzon, who finished his career by setting the Brooklyn College scoring record with 1,848 points, was shocked to read what Yeshiva had written. When asked about it, he simply said “We were the first.”
Edon, who spent parts of 3 seasons with the Bulldogs, said he remembers being told at one point that they set an NCAA first, something he & his two brothers were proud of doing.
Pajtim, who only spent one year as a Bulldog, but was a tremendous spark off the bench during the Bulldogs run to win the CUNYAC Championship, also remembers the trio of them on the court during a game at Lehman College. Egzon passed him the ball to him. Poppy, who had originally been a soccer player, passed it to Edon, who scored a layup.
Edon’s eligibility would run out after the game, ending the possibility of the trio ever doing it again.
I cannot say with 100% certainty that Gjonbalaj brothers were the first trio of brothers to all appear in a D3 game & even be on the court simultaneously, but they most certainly met this accomplishment before the Hod brothers.
* EDITOR’S NOTE: According to the post-game report on the Macabees website, the Hod brothers all appeared late in the 4th quarter. The NCAA has not had any mens team play a 4-quarter game since 1953.