Out of bounds: Casual pickup basketball brings students to the courts

Sophomore+Ron+Talmor+goes+for+a+lay+up.+The+boys+practiced+their+shots+at+KMS+while+waiting+for+others+to+arrive.+Photo+by+Aditya+Pimplaskar

Sophomore Ron Talmor goes for a lay up. The boys practiced their shots at KMS while waiting for others to arrive. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar

Malini Ramaiyer

Sophomore Ron Talmor goes for a lay up. The boys practiced their shots at KMS while waiting for others to arrive. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar
Sophomore Ron Talmor goes for a lay up. The boys practiced their shots at KMS while waiting for others to arrive. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar

Published in March 2015 issue under headline of “Out of Bounds”.

They agreed on 3:30 — ish.

At 3:40 p.m., two people show up. By 3:47 p.m., there are three. More trickle in, place their car keys and cell phones against the concrete wall, put on their worn-out basketball shoes and begin to warm-up while discussing literature homework. The half-court games begin at 3:56 p.m. By 4:19 p.m., they have a full-fledged full-court game going.

On this Saturday, Feb. 21, in the late-afternoon sun, MVHS boys along with some alumni and other stragglers met on the Kennedy Middle School blacktop to play some ball. Junior Abhinav Balaji and senior Venkata Paladuga were the first to enter the school and when they did, some one-on-ones were already going on. Balaji dribbled the ball as they walked in and chose one of the three available courts in the shade. He, along with other players of the MVHS boys basketball team, come to KMS to practice basketball, but also to hang with their friends. They play on most Saturdays, and during vacation, almost everyday. Not everyone who plays is on the school team, but that is not cause for much tension.

“It’s just whatever,” junior Ashween Manimaran said.

The night before, the MVHS team had lost their senior game to Cupertino High School. They were out of the playoffs— the season was over. As everyone gathered on the court, they discussed the previous night’s loss.

“We have to get over it somehow. We sleep on it, we talk to other teammates,” Balaji said. “You gotta just get through it. Play the sport that you love more and more. “

Class of 2014 alumnus Rami Dwidar asked senior Casey Parsay about the season.

“Casey you starting this year?” Dwidar said.

“Yeah, season ended last night,” Parsay said.

“You want to play over here?”

“Yeah sure.”

They take free throws to decide teams. The first five to make their shots are on one team and the next five make up the other. Those who miss, don’t play.

The boys call their own fouls with their foul mouths. They play sloppily, screaming and erupting randomly. They shout “MONEY” and wildly fire three-pointers, which are valued at two points in their system — more often than not, they miss. Little thought goes into their play, but that’s the point.

A typical play across the court entails traveling, dribbling, traveling again, but no matter — the game continues.

“You can play without any of the pressure of playing for a coach and having other people watching you,” sophomore Ron Talmor said. “You can play to have fun and get better.”

MVHS students rest and casually interact between games on the concrete wall by the courts.  They played  four games total on Feb. 21. Photo by Malini Ramaiyer
MVHS students rest and casually interact between games on the concrete wall by the courts. They played four games total on Feb. 21. Photo by Malini Ramaiyer

Balaji and Manimaran began playing together five years ago with a group of friends. They would just play day after day and when came spring season came, tryout of the school team. Balaji did not make the KMS basketball team until eighth grade, but he clearly remembers trying out on these very courts. The pre-teenage boys would arrange themselves in two lines and make layup after layup, to prove they’re good enough for the team. Those who made it played for the school. Those who didn’t played at the school.

“All three of us went [to KMS] for middle school so we’re kind of familiar with these courts,” Manimaran said. Taking a water break, he sat on the wall next to Balaji and Parsay.

“I didn’t go here,” Parsay said.

“Yeah you did,” Balaji said. “Didn’t you?”

Parsay went to Christa McAuliffe Middle School.

Ever since, this group has met at the KMS blacktops. Though many have played at the courts at Jollyman Park and Garden Gate Elementary, there is a consensus that the KMS courts are the best. Not only are there six full courts here, but MVHS alumni often visit the KMS courts. Talmor explains that they like to play where the alumni play, but when asked what’s special about playing with the alumni, he shrugs his shoulders and runs back to the court.

They invite anyone who wants to play and everyone gets a chance to play, but it’s clear who the punching bags of the group are. If they screw up, someone cusses. If they don’t screw up, someone cusses.

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Senior Casey Parsay dribbles the ball up the court toward senior Rohan Nair at Kennedy Middle School on Feb. 21. Parsay was invited by junior Abhinav Balaji to play at KMS. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar

 

During water break, Balaji sits on the wall talking to Manimaran. Someone walks up to ask them to join.

“Do you guys want to play? No? Okay. Go f— yourselves.”

After two games, the heat in the air is gone. In this fourth game, the rookies are gone as well, the cackling and sloppy play stops and the threes actually go in. Still, they still occasionally drop the ball because they’re laughing too hard to play.

“Look at Abhi running like that,” Manimaran said, chuckling, to Paladuga watching from the wall.

“I’m never running like that again man,” Balaji said, in down-dog position to catch his breath after a sprint across the court.

The boys laugh and swear at each other a lot. But when somebody falls down, they help him up, pause the game for him to catch his breath and continue to play. No harm, no foul and no rules.

“It’s a good way to get away from real basketball,” Parsay said, “but still play basketball.”

The fourth game ends and the sun has set. People call their parents, ask each other for rides home and walk off the blacktop, through the fence and to the parking lot. Balaji and another boy play one on one while three others watch and make more fun of Balaji. They had agreed to end at 6 p.m. At 6:45 p.m. they still stood there, continuing to play as the blacktop emptied. No one knew when they would leave.

“One more?” Someone calls out from the wall.

“Sure.”

Reported by Malini Ramaiyer and Aditya Pimplaskar.