Pickup basketball flourishes at IM Sports-West
Some of us were all-state high school stars, some of us were bench scrubs for the middle school B-team, and a few of us have a better airball percentage than shooting percentage. Either way, IM Sports-West's pickup basketball scene is a welcoming place to develop skills and make new friends, regardless of talent level.
Pickup basketball is unique in that you never really know who your teammates will be until you're playing with them. As a game is going on, one person will call "next" and pick up four other players to form a team. When one team on the court loses, they'll come off and be replaced by the team that called next.
No win-loss records to maintain, no scoreboards or stats to pad. All you need in a pickup game is a mental tally of the score and the drive to win.
When biochemistry freshman Karan Singh is on the court, he takes it so seriously it's tough to tell these games don't formally count for anything. Whether directing teammates on positioning or celebrating a successful three-pointer, Singh visibly enjoys the game and wants to win every time.
"I come usually after class like every day," Singh said. "There's a lot of good competition, which is just gonna help me get better. It's just fun coming out."
Intramural coordinator Dujuan Wiley, who played under Tom Izzo for two seasons in the late 1990s, regularly jumps in on pickup games at IM West. Wiley, who played professional ball internationally, says that pickup basketball has helped him recapture the fun of the sport since he no longer has to really care about the results.
"Now that I'm in my forties it's started to become more fun, versus before, I was always in compete mode," Wiley said. "But now I'm fine with just getting out there, having some fun, getting some cardio in."
Wiley isn't the only Spartan baller to take the court at an IM building. Earlier this year, current Spurs guard Bryn Forbes ran drills with a trainer at one end of the court while a pickup game went on at the other. In one game, Singh's team even had the honor of playing – and being manhandled by – highly touted freshman Jaren Jackson Jr.
"He was basically playing one-on-five and killing my whole team," Singh said. "We couldn't really stop him."
Wiley said Izzo's current and former players are no strangers to IM West.
"They come here every once in a while and play pickup games when they're not playing over at the Breslin," Wiley said. "They're not too big time for this. This (is) where it all started."
The slim possibility of getting matched up against a five-star recruit or NBA player shouldn't intimidate anyone, media and information sophomore Daron Copeland said. Although as a "competitive guy" he enjoys bettering his game and winning, he thinks there's always a place for beginners on the court.
"Don't be worried about impressing anybody or if you're not that good," Copeland said. "Basketball's a great sport to pick up on and have a good time with. At the end of the day, it's a game, and it's supposed to be fun."