by Gabriella DePinho, Editor-in-Chief
When Jasper Nation is not packing Draddy to support the men’s or women’s basketball team, it does not mean the courts are empty. There might be intramural teams playing, an athletic team practicing, or possibly Jaspers just taking advantage of the space for a workout. However, most nights, when the courts are free from the Division I teams, the Draddy pickup players come and take over the space
While the college sponsors several intramural leagues, including multiple divisions of basketball teams, these pickup players are not part of any formal campus organization. These players play for the love of the sport, to improve their game and as a way to make new friends on campus.
Junior communication major Matthew Cahill is one of those players who plays for the love of the sport. Cahill played basketball from middle school through high school so he knew he would have to find a place to keep playing when he came to MC.
“I played basketball in high school, but me and my friends grew up playing pickup at a bunch of different places across town,” Cahill said. “So, even though I wasn’t going to be on a team when I came to college, I knew I would still find myself playing just like I would back home because there will always be a pickup game somewhere.”
Much like Cahill, sophomore English major JC Pozo-Olano also stumbled upon the community of pickup players. Pozo-Olano played soccer in high school but has always had a love for basketball.
“No one ever actually told me [that people regularly play] I just remember wanting to play basketball so I walked into Draddy and asked the person at the desk if I could shoot around,” Pozo-Olano said.
Draddy is most available for the pickup players before and after the basketball season. When Draddy is freely available, the players are there from around 7:00 p.m. to closing time, which is around 10:00 p.m., about five or six days a week.
“Finding a place to play basketball was one of the first things I looked to do, so I was sure to check Draddy as soon as I got here to find out when I could play,” Cahill said. “And originally, I just went by myself and made friends with the other kids there since I saw them pretty much every day.”
Pozo-Olano originally showed up to the courts alone as well, but now is a regular who has found friends in the crew.
“I definitely notice how pick up has affected my social life, as I’ve met tons of people around campus and I feel it has really helped me broaden my social circle in general,” Pozo-Olano said. “Even if I don’t hang with all the people who play pick up, it’s still dope seeing them around campus and saying hi.”
“I would say that my regular group of friends and my Draddy friends are honestly the same general group of people,” Pozo-Olano said. “The people I play basketball with are also the people whose apartments I hang at, go out with, and even play board games with.”
Senior electrical engineering major Raul Pet III, grew up participating in a variety of sports, including lacrosse, baseball, and track and field, but considered basketball to be his main sport, even though he was not the best player his team saw.
“My team was very good at the time, with some players playing in Kentucky, UConn, Indiana, and other big name basketball colleges now,” Pet said. “Basically what I’m saying is I rode the bench and saw college level talent in high school already. Knowing this, I accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be on a college team unless I devoted most of my time to basketball, which I ended up not doing.”
For Pet, playing in Draddy is about the love of the game, as well as trying out some new and exciting things on the court.
“My favorite part of playing pickup is trying new moves you see online or in the NBA,” Pet said. “You try to practice that move and see if you can implement it in a pickup game. Also, I’m that guy who hates losing in anything. So when I play pickup I try to win every game and stay on the court as long as possible.”
Pet was originally a member of the class of 2018, but needed to take a year off from school, so he is now a member of the class of 2020. He has seen the community change over the years, but still loves to be part of it.
“The basketball community has dwindled these past few years if I have to be honest,” Pet said. “We probably have only a third of the people who play regularly now compared to the peak years of when I used to play in Draddy consistently.”
Despite the community being smaller than it was in the past, according to Pet, the schedule is more consistent now, so he and the other players have a better sense of when the gym will be open for their use. Through all his years at MC, Pet is grateful for how large a part in his social life playing pickup in Draddy has been.
“My original graduating class – shout out to the class of 2018 – was filled with people and friends who loved to play basketball, so finding people to go to Draddy with wasn’t an issue,” Pet said. “The people who I met in Draddy are my closest friends at Manhattan College that I still keep in contact with today. Different majors, ages, gender, and skill – it all didn’t matter, everyone played competitively in every pickup game.”
Though they do not scout new players to join in, the regular crew is always excited for their community to keep growing.
“Nobody ever really turns anyone away at Draddy,” Cahill said. “If someone wants to play, all they have to do is ask. We have a pretty big group of kids who play consistently so we don’t actively look to get more kids to play but anybody that wants to play is welcome. All it takes to become a regular there is to just keep showing up.”
Whatever reason someone shows up to Draddy and no matter how long they stay, the court is there for everyone to share.
“Playing pick up in Draddy has actually led to me making all kinds of friends and getting to know many more people who I probably wouldn’t interact with otherwise,” Pozo-Olano said. “In Draddy it doesn’t matter what school you belong to, STEM and Liberal Arts majors get to interact in a way that erases those kinds of barriers.”
Editor’s Note: Michevi Dufflart contributed to reporting.