Hoops. Roundball. B-ball. Basketball. Call it what you will: This game has an uncanny ability to worm its way into the hearts and psyches of people. Michael Jordan nailed when he said, “The game of basketball has been everything to me. My place of refuge, the place I’ve always gone when I needed comfort and peace.”
So, it’s no wonder that, at the College, hoops has had a similar impact. For more than 20 years, a cadre of faculty, staff and students has congregated at noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the F. Mitchell Johnson Physical Education Center to indulge in their shared passion of pickup basketball – and they invite others to join in!
Here’s the drill: As the players gather, everyone shoots baskets and stretches to warm up for a few minutes. Usually, there’s a little banter about what’s going on in the sport or the highlights of on-campus happenings. Then, inevitably, someone will get the ball rolling with: “OK, how are we going to split up the teams?”
After that, the action begins in earnest. Sometimes the group plays half-court games, sometimes full court, depending upon how many people show up. In past years, these games have drawn nearly 30 players, but these days it’s customary to see about four to 10 ballers dribbling, passing and shooting out on the hardcourt.
Though faculty and staff make up the core group that has kept this activity going, there are always a few students – male and female – who show up and mix in if there’s room for them on the teams. In addition, a few individuals from the community, including former College employees or alumni, join the fun.
So, why has noontime b-ball inspired such loyalty and endured for the better part of two decades? Ask IT executive Zach Hartje, who has been putting his impressive skills on display for nearly 14 years.
“I definitely love playing the game. That keeps me coming back,” says Hartje, director of the College’s Teaching, Learning and Technology team. “But I especially enjoy the camaraderie that I’ve been able to form with fellow staff and faculty over the years. Playing basketball here is similar to the other activities that Campus Recreation Services makes available for faculty and staff. It’s a great way to meet others from around campus. You get to know people that you might not have crossed paths with otherwise. And the cardio workout is pretty good, too!”
Now and then, says Hartje, something will happen that manifests itself as a highlight. One summer, about a decade ago, six or so regulars ended up playing in TD Arena alongside Cougar stars Andrew Goudelock, Antwaine Wiggins ’12 and Jeremy Simmons ’11, all of whom are now playing professionally.
And Hartje recalls another highlight: “A few years ago, a group of students walked in one day and wanted to challenge the ‘old guys’ – our average age was at least double theirs. They thought they’d clean the floor with us – but, wouldn’t you know it, we stunned them and walked away victorious! At this point, for me, being able to walk away without anything hurting is always a highlight!”
Henry Xie, another regular, concurs. He’s been part of this klatch for almost 12 years and says he enjoys playing with colleagues, and the students as well.
“Playing noontime basketball is fun, and competitive at times,” says Xie, a professor in the Department of Management and Marketing. “But most of all, it’s enjoyable to have colleagues as your teammates and/or rivals out there on the basketball court.”
Burton Callicott has been participating for at least 15 years and is among the most veteran of all the noontime players.
“I’ve been playing noon basketball for a long time,” says Callicott, head of research and instruction services in the Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library. “I find that it provides a wonderful break in the day where I can focus completely on something other than work. Because the activity draws people from all across campus, I have gotten to become close with a host of community members I never would have met otherwise. And, over the years, even as people come and go (sometimes due to injury), the competition and camaraderie have remained remarkably consistent. What we do is definitely a serious game. Still, anyone of any skill level is more than welcome to join in, but no one holds back.”
Come out at noon and see for yourself.
Noontime basketball is open to all College faculty, staff and students. Alumni who purchase a semester-long pass from Campus Recreation Services can participate as well. For more information, contact Campus Recreation Services.