Students connect and develop skills through pickup basketball

by Max Zhuang | 1/30/17 2:10am

The great state of California may be best known for recreational marijuana and the Golden State Warriors. However, I would argue that the California culture combined with the trendiness of our juggernaut super team has created ideal conditions for the best pickup basketball. Everyone is down to play. Third-graders want to be Stephen Curry. Girls swoon over Klay Thompson, dads are constantly throwing a fit over Draymond Green’s antics and — oh wait, did I forget to mention Kevin Durant?

Yet, the Dartmouth community itself has experienced its own eruption of basketball mania; to witness the social phenomenon, just head to the basketball courts any given afternoon and watch as the part-time ballers assemble to form half-court five on five games with teams subbing on and off the court.

Pickup basketball’s popularity on campus cannot be denied. Interviewing different students on campus and their experience playing pickup, only one notion became truly apparent: ball is life.

“We’re very serious athletes, and I try to play everyday to stay in good shape.” Evan Ashley ’17, a basketball fanatic, said. “‘Ball’ is my favorite sport. I love it when I dribble up and down the court.”

Ashley explained that he plays pickup at least once a day, because the exercise keeps him in shape during the harsh winter months of excessive pong, sleeping-in and gorging himself with food at Chabad. Pickup basketball is easily worked into the cardio portion of his fitness routine.

As a senior, Ashley finds himself with too much time on his hands, and so he even organized his own intramural basketball team to play with his friends; this season Ashley’s team, Archie BC, has accumulated a 2-1 record, on pace for the playoffs in the Moosilauke League. Although Ashley remains very invested in his intramural team, Ashley still says that pickup is “more fun,” since it gives him the opportunity to play with new players and meet new people.

“I remember one time at the gym, me and a friend were trying to play pickup, and so we get in this game with what looked like was a group of football players,” Ashley said. “They crushed us, but only after the game did I realize that I was playing against [former Big Green quarterback] Dalyn Williams ’16.”

Describing the crossover effect playing with athletes from different sports, Ashley believes that their dominance in pickup shows the combination of skill and athleticism required to ball. Ashley cited one instance when Williams dunked on an alley oop play that was, “so ridiculous,” it felt as though it had lasted for “like ten seconds.”

“The gym is packed almost every night with kids trying to ball,” said Jayson Chojar ’19, a frequent pickup player. “There are kids that play in groups a couple times a week, and they play on teams from their freshmen house communities, floormates or [are] just buddies. The best part about it is that anybody who wants to play, can.”

Some people have to hit the courts with a friend, others, like Chojar, use their solidarity to an advantage. Honing his social skills on the court through meeting new people and working together as a team, Chojar provided an explanation of the unspoken rules when playing in a pickup game with an unfamiliar group of people who seem to know each other, but don’t know you. Even though pickup is a good opportunity to meet others, there still remains standards and unwritten rules to abide by.

First and foremost, Chojar explained that you really don’t need to bring anyone else with you to the courts, because the entire experience of meeting others and building rapport can be developed on the court. Next, Chojar believes that it’s crucial to make your shots and take good shots on the courts. Otherwise, you risk alienation from your own team when they stop passing you the ball.

Lastly, Chojar thinks the key to jumping in and playing with random people is to “ease into things.” Chojar’s philosophy is to take things slowly, watch how others are playing the game and look to pass. When one is playing pickup as a complete team player, it makes that person not only more fun to play with but also the game is more fun for everyone else.

“It’s important to build chemistry with your team as quickly as possible,” said Shareef Ibraheem ’18, a hardcore pickup player and former high school basketball star. “Even though pickup as a game is better when you are familiar with the players on your team and know how to play with them. Don’t ever forget to cook. Don’t ever stop breaking people’s ankles.”