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What you need to know about pick-up basketball at USF

With their hands on their knees, deep breaths escape from everyone on the court. The sound of skidding sneakers on concrete and unclear, shouting echos fill the outdoor basketball courts sandwiched between Parking Lot 6 and the USF Track and Field Stadium.

It feels like the only people on the planet are you, your teammates and the other five guys you’re playing against. There is nothing you want more than to make the dude who has been talking trash in your ear all game to sit down and watch from the sidelines.

This is the scene almost every night at the four side-by-side outdoor basketball courts at USF.

But you won’t find this competitive atmosphere at every pick-up basketball game on campus.

There are three main places to play basketball at USF. Each court has a different level of skill and competition involved. The outdoor courts are the most competitive on campus. These are the courts can turn boys into men. These are the courts that will have you walking back home with a limp and a few bruises. Good old fashioned pick-up basketball.

When the sun goes down, this is the place that allows you to get physical, be mean and say things that you wouldn’t say to your mother. If you have the skills, however, you can silence the best trash talkers.

These courts are open to the public, so people who don’t attend USF can also play. While Jake Martinez does not attend USF, he lives just off campus and plays at the outdoor courts a few times a week.

“I love the competition. These dudes are pretty good, so I have to bring my A-game,” Martinez said. “Sometimes I just have to blow off some steam. I talk a little trash and so do they, but it’s all in the spirit of the game. That’s what I love about pick-up basketball.”

The USF Campus Recreation Center also offers two basketball facilities, the North Gym and East Gym. The North Gym has two full-court hoops and is the most popular place on campus for USF students to play pick-up basketball. While they may not be as intense as the outdoor hoops, these courts certainly offer competitive games. At the end of the day, no one likes losing.

Freshman James Woodka, who played basketball for Tarpon High School in 2015, plays basketball at the North Gym almost every day.

“People play every day, so there are always open runs available,” Woodka said. “Everybody is cool with each other and I’ve gotten to know people just from playing together all the time. There’s nothing else like it on campus.”

For Woodka, playing pick-up basketball at the North Gym is a way to make new friends while playing the game he loves.

The East Gym is even more of a relaxed environment for pick-up basketball. Not everyone wants the occasional elbow to the jaw or a knee to the groin. This court allows players to work on their shot or just get back into the game of basketball.

Activities like volleyball, handball, squash and other intramural sports also take place at the two gyms, which is both distracting and annoying to people playing pick-up basketball.

But again, if you are a basketball fanatic and enjoy all the things pick-up basketball has to offer, the outdoor courts and the North Gym are the places to go.

If you think you can hang with the big boys, check out the outdoor hoops. If you just want some quick five-on-five games and some quality basketball, head to the North Gym.

Being stuck in the same routine of going to class, studying, sleeping and repeating can get a bit old. Sometimes you have to let out your frustration. Pick-up basketball is a way to relieve some stress, clear your mind and express how that 50 percent on your midterm really made you feel.