Pick Up at Willow Creek


Last night, I made my inaugural appearance at Willow Creek for Sunday night pick up. Pick up basketball is a lot like sex. There isn’t much you would rather be doing, but there is significance to the details of the experience that will impact how you feel about it when it’s done. Comfort and intuitive chemistry enhance the experience, while robotic movements and selfishness diminish it. I am if nothing else a fluid, intuitive player.

At Willow Creek, they run two side court games timed at eight minutes. Whoever leads at the horn wins, if it’s tied sudden death follows. With what appeared to be my singular exception, the players were under 30 with the majority in the 17-24 year old demographic. I was picked up by my former player Daemon Ashley, his two older brothers Jermaine and Tristan and a tatted white guy with some size.

Without discussion or coaching, we found ourselves as a team. Daemon was our scoring alpha dog, the tatted white guy rebounded and gave us a post presence, Tristan was our garbage man defending, rebounding, getting loose balls and extra baskets, Jermaine filled the gaps and I facillitated the offense. It was a beautiful thing.

Early in our first game, I realized the guy I was guarding was too quick in the open court for me to contain. I switched with Daemon who’s length bothered the quicker player. I quickly forced two turnovers from the guy I was guarding who was a thead down barrel at the basket-type. On another earlier possession, I found myself in the deep corner. The ball was swung to the tatted white guy, who was open for a three, but he swung the ball one more pass to me, and I hit the three. We were not selfish, we would win. We did six straight times before losing.

In our third or fourth game, we played a real athletic, aggressive team and went down 7-3. We were invested in who we had become, and didn’t give up. Collectively we got a few stops, hit a pair of two’s to force extra time. In sudden death, we forced a bad shot, got a rebound and threw it ahead for an open lay up. With nothing at stake beyond the glory of our momentary accomplishments, we celebrated the win, savored the moment of what we had just done.

In some recess of the mind, we will remember this run of games. The next time we see each other in a gym, we will want to play together hoping it will again be as good as it was. I left the gym elated by the purity of the game in it’s most basic format.

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