UNC's pickup basketball culture thrives

Video by Alexis Jordan and Amanda Lalezarian / The Daily Tar Heel

UNC students don’t depend on athletic scholarships to continue doing what they love. Watch some students who like to play pickup basketball at both Wollen and Fetzer gym in their free time.

UNC alumnus Dan Costello has been playing pickup basketball in Woollen Gym — a court dating back to the 1930s — for 10 years.

“Woollen is historical … the Heels used to play here before you were born,” he said.

For Costello and others, the unique culture of pickup basketball at UNC emerges from open courts and groups of students, teachers and Chapel Hill residents that come together to play.


Senior Ying-Ao Zhang plays a game of pick up basketball at Rams Head Recreation Center Tuesday.

While students also have the option to join intramural and club teams, pickup student recreational basketball teams have no official structure besides the players who play, many of whom don’t know each other off the courts.

“If you give them a basketball and courts, they know what to do from there,” said Reggie Hinton, director of facilities and operations for Campus Recreation.

There are many open courts on campus, including Woollen, Fetzer Gym, Rams Head Recreational Center and outdoor courts next to the Smith Center.

“It is the product of UNC deep in basketball tradition,” Hinton said. “People want to play — pickup or otherwise.”

Woollen has hosted a pickup game played by faculty, staff, alumni and graduate students during lunch hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for more than 20 years.

“Lunch is the time I don’t teach classes,” said communications graduate student Armond Towns.

Towns said he plays in Woollen because he is not as young as he once was and many of the players at Woollen are older.

However, the number of people that play at Woollen is not as consistently high as Hinton thinks it should be. Last week, 216 people played pickup on Friday, but only 92 people played on Monday.

Hinton attributes the lower numbers at Woollen to the lack of air conditioning in the gym.

Senior Melanique DeVeaux said she chooses instead to play at Rams because it is air-conditioned. She also believes that Rams tends to draw more competitive players, which makes it more crowded.

“Woollen feels like it’s 800 degrees,” she said.

Senior Tyler Colvard said when the courts are especially crowded, the players will shoot for spots on the team. The first five players to make a basket will play on the same team. The winning team gets to keep playing, while the losing team will disassemble.

Rams starts to get crowded around 5 p.m., when most classes are over and players can park on campus, he said.

Director of Campus Recreation Bill Goa said he plans to address the lack of air conditioning in Woollen and the crowded courts in Rams.

Within the next six months, he will create a recreational facilities master plan, and will assess the need for more basketball, volleyball and other multipurpose courts.

“We will solicit student input during this process,” he said.


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