College Pickup Ball: The Starting 5

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We all enjoy a trip to the rec center for some pickup hoops, but it's a different experience for everyone … especially these guys.

The I Care Way Too Much Guy

This is an individual who treats a causal three-on-three pickup game with friends like Game 7 in Madison Square Garden. He is rarely the most talented player on the court, but he certainly is the most competitive. He was probably a role player in high school or really good in a sport that’s not basketball (usually football).

He doesn’t care that it’s a pickup game. He will be playing the hardest defense you’ve ever seen – diving for loose balls and fouling regularly. He will get really pissed off if you do one of three things: call a foul, forget the score or fail to act like this game is the most important thing in your life. This individual has heard, “Dude what’s your problem? It’s only a pickup game,” and “this is why no one wants to play with you” probably his entire life. An easy way to identify this person is to look for the person who says the score after every play even if the score hasn’t changed since the last time he said it.    

The Let’s Have Fun Guy

Let’s do a total 180. This is an individual who steps onto the court and is simply looking to have a good time. He usually goes to the gym or park with a group of friends who often share a similar attitude. You will not see this person preoccupy himself with the score or dive for loose balls. He’ll be the one yelling “first” to try to claim a ball that the two real players are fighting on the floor for. You can also notice the “let’s have fun guy” because he will lackadaisically take 3s at inopportune times and shrug it off. 

Most annoyingly, he will suck up to the best player on the floor like a pledge trying to befriend an older fraternity member. He doesn’t care the best player is scoring on him relentlessly. He’ll respond with, “Wow great move” or “damn this kid is awesome.” If you are waiting to play and keep asking the players on the court what the score even though all they do is shrug and lightly jog back on defense, it is time to find a new court because it’s full of “let’s have fun guys.” 

The Chest and Tris Guy

This is an individual who stops by the basketball court either before or after his real reason for being in the gym: to work out. If it’s before his workout, it is probably due to the fact that the gym is full of GDIs and there are no 55-pound dumbbells. After spending five minutes by the water fountain wondering why they don’t just get rid of the 15- and 25-pound weights and add more 55-pounders, he’ll make his way over to the courts to get some cardio in. 

Now if this individual decides to play ball after his big chest and tri day, he’ll be sure to say how sore he is and how long it’s been since he really ran. He will, however, hit the boards hard in pursuit of the opportunity to grab a board, put it on his chin and rip it through showing off his swell. This individual is the easiest to spot. Just look at his sleeves. The more shoulder you see, the more sure you can be he is “the chest and tri guy.” A nip slip is a dead giveaway

The This is My Court Guy

Every court has one of these. This is an individual who acts like he was appointed by Michael Jordan to be the watchman and caretaker of the court. He enforces arbitrary rules stricter than the NCAA. “Playing to 13 straight, no 2s.” The important thing to notice here is not the number the game is played to but the instant disgust and dismissal to any other point total by the “this is my court guy.”

To him, anyone who has ever played before, and especially on his court, has played by one set of rules and one set of rules only. “You want to play to 11? What are you talking about? You know it’s always 13 straight.” Oh, I’m sorry “this is my court guy,” I embarrassingly forgot the well-known, strict and rigid rules of pickup basketball. This individual will be found at the top of the key with the ball as the game is about to begin. Since he has the ball and is in charge if initiating the check, it obviously gives him unquestioned authority.   

The I Was All-Conference Guy

Say hello to the most talented player on the court. This is an individual who led his high school team in scoring and won at least All-Division. It takes a lot for this player to be challenged in a recreational pickup basketball game. His focus will go in and out and will often turn it on, especially defensively, only when the game is on the line. He will enjoy the attention the “let’s have fun guy” gives him and hate the constant defensive effort the “I care too much guy” gives him.

To identify the “I was all conference guy,” aside from observing talent level, you can just focus your attention to the guy who is constantly calling fouls. No need for a ref in this game because this all-star knows when he is fouled. Spoiler alert. It’s whenever he drives and misses, because there’s no way anyone on this court could stop him without fouling.     

Senior > University of Maryland

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