Tufts pickup basketball scene struggles without space to play

One of the basketball hoops at the South Courts is pictured on May 8. Mina Terzioglu / The Tufts Daily

Last year, the Daily covered the booming pickup basketball scene on the Tufts campus. Particularly when Tufts’ COVID-19 policies were the most restrictive, the consistently packed courts served as a rare beacon of normalcy. Every warm and sunny day, countless full and half-court games were played while skateboarders added to the engaging atmosphere.

Now, as the weather warms and summer approaches, the South Courts are mostly empty. The courts were painted over in order to address the Medford/Somerville campus’s newfound tennis court shortage, and only two hoops remain. Tufts’ campus now has zero locations for students and other players to play full court games outdoors, and the athletes who used to spend so much time at the South Courts are feeling that void.

“Especially when the weather was nice, people wanted to play,” Chris Hale, a junior, said. “But now, it’s frustrating because you can’t enjoy the outside and play basketball [outdoors] on campus.”

Hale, a regular on the South Courts last year, also voiced his frustration that the lack of full-court availability even transferred to the intramural league this year. Games were played half-court with limited time, and most of the results seemed rushed and unrepresentative of the overall course of the game.

This rule limited interest from those who signed up, and many stopped coming after the first couple of weeks.

“People wouldn’t show up to play all the time when it was inside,” Hale said. “The quality wasn’t as great as I expected, [compared to] how they described it when I signed up.”

Additionally, current COVID-19 restrictions still mandate mask usage from those playing pickup and intramural basketball inside.

Pickup basketball players at Tufts sought to avoid wearing a mask while playing basketball whenever possible. The South Courts provided an outdoor option and a form of normalcy last year.

While the Tisch Sports and Fitness Center holds two courts — the varsity court and the intramural court — demand for time on them is high from varsity, club and intramural sports alike. Hale pointed to the uniqueness of playing pickup basketball outside that cannot be matched by an indoor game.

“It’s very hit or miss whether there are people there now or not, but I felt like when it was outside, people were always excited to play,” Hale said, “It’s just so much better to be outside because it’s a guarantee that you see the same people and make friends.”

Despite the newfound lack of courts on campus, the pickup community is still making do. Nightimes at Tisch see the gym filled with those looking for a game with competitive, high-energy tilts, most of which are almost always decided by a single point.

These games are also a way for varsity athletes who participate in other sports to get in some competition.

“I love football, but there’s also a special place in my heart for basketball games with my buddies,” sophomore Travis White said. “A lot of my teammates also [play pickup basketball], and it’s a big relaxation [thing] for them.”


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