On a Friday afternoon, the pounding of basketballs and squeaking of shoes on the wood floor echo through Rush gym. But these sounds do not come from the varsity basketball team, nor do they come from the intermural league. They come from Occidental students and staff playing pickup basketball,
Although pickup has existed at Occidental for more than 30 years, it has become more popular recently, most likely due to the creation of a Facebook group that staff and students can use to quickly plan a game.
Pickup games include players of all years and experience levels. Some have never played basketball before, some have played on competitive teams and some, like junior Mohammed Hoque, have played pickup since they were young.
“A lot of people played on teams or they play intermural. And a lot of guys who are on the [varsity] team or were on the team play,” Hoque said. “It’s like there’s novice, intermediate and really good players. So it’s a good mix and we obviously make the teams fair.”
Games of pickup can get competitive, but generally, pickup is meant to serve as a way for anyone who wants to play basketball to have the chance to play, regardless of skill level.
“If it’s with the same guys … you know that if you miss all your shots and aren’t performing how you think you should be performing, you don’t really mind at the end of the day,” Hoque said.
Junior Sam Ravetz is on the varsity basketball team and plays pickup during the off season. Basketball spans the generations of Ravetz’s family: his father played basketball and Ravetz’s younger brother plays as well.
For games played in Rush Gymnasium, the bleachers are pushed to the side and the side hoops lowered to create two smaller courts. Sometimes during pickup games, the basketball team uses one side while students playing pickup use the other, according to Ravetz.
“Usually one side is occupied by the actual basketball team, and it’s a lot more serious. It’s certainly not as fun. And then you make your way over to the other side, and you can mess around,” Ravetz said. “A lot of the reason people play sports is to take a step back from school and just unwind. You definitely can get that sense making your way from one court to another that is just a completely different environment.”
Pickup basketball works to create a community of players who love the sport. Games allow players to connect with other students they normally would not connect with, according to Ravetz.
“It’s relaxing and it reminds me why I play in the first place—because of this social connection,” Ravetz said.
Campus Safety officer Barry Hardin frequently laces up for pickup games in Rush Gym. Hardin has played the game his entire life, and has played pickup at Occidental for over 30 years.
“I grew up in Eagle Rock—close to Oxy—and started playing pickup basketball in 1981,” Hardin said. “They used to have a very competitive game in the 80s and 90s.”
For Hardin, the benefits of pickup have extended beyond playing the sport and getting to know students—it also led to his employment with Campus Safety. After being laid off in 2005, Hardin turned his job search to the site of his favorite pickup games. Despite having no experience in law enforcement, he applied for (and received) a position with Campus Safety.
According to Hardin, pickup basketball has long been a combination of students and staff.
“I like playing with the students, it gives me a chance to get to know them,” Hardin said. “The community changes as the students graduate and leave. It is a good group of people.”
Hogue echoed this statement, explaining that pickup basketball creates a sense of community.
“At the end of the day, a lot of friendships are formed through pickup basketball, because basketball’s a common ground,” Hoque said.