Typically, the Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center is busy throughout the week with students working out, playing games and socializing. However, around this time of year, the basketball courts are even more abuzz than usual with a special kind of energy.
The rec hosts the preliminary rounds of the annual 3-on-3 men's and women's basketball tournaments, which began this year on Sept. 17, and will conclude with both championship games taking place in Allen Fieldhouse at Late Night in the Phog on Friday.
On Friday, as students pile into the the blue benches that wrap around the entirety of Allen Fieldhouse, the best four teams will be brought into the spotlight after days of games that all led to this.
For many, such as Caleb Mann, a sophomore from Wellsville, whose team is still in the tournament, this is a chance to both have fun and showcase basketball talents.
“To still be playing is pretty exciting,” Mann said. “It’s competitive out here and it’s just fun to still be playing to get to that final game."
As the tournament progresses in the rec each night and the more teams that leave, the more tense the players become. The gym hushes over as the clinging sound of the weight machines coming from the workout room become apparent with the small number of students left on the court; but the short bursts of yelling and squeaking of sneakers continue to echo as passersby look on.
Arguments seemingly become more intense with the games reaching their final stretch. According to Mann, this is the opportunity where the level of competition rises and the trash-talking ensues.
“It was fun getting to compete against other kids you see walking around campus," Mann said. “Playing at Late Night is a dream, so the games down here get a little testy for everyone.”
The teams who find themselves in the later stages of the tournament tend to ramp up the physical play and trash talking as they know they may not get another shot like this in their entire lives.
Little by little, players file out of the gym after suffering the disappointment of elimination. Some of them mutter curse words under their breath about missing a shot or turning the ball over, as well as some chatter about a certain player not getting called for fouls.
As frustration mounts for each team with an early exit from the tournament, junior Dennis Walls still appreciates the moment and the purpose of playing in the event.
“I know it would be one of the coolest moments, but scariest in my entire playing career," Walls said. “Even though we were knocked out, I was a little relieved at the same time."
Once Friday comes, the spotlight will shine on the men's and women's basketball teams for the length of the evening. But, for a moment in time, students who are fortunate enough to play in the 3-on-3 basketball tournament finals will be able to compete like a Jayhawk on James Naismith court.
The task can be daunting, according to Walls, and it certainly plays into the fact of teams entering in that desire to play in the tournament. Even with those apprehensions in play, Walls says that the opportunity makes playing in the event a chance that one can't pass up.
“To shoot or make a cool pass is easy to do here at the rec, but to do it Allen and try not to mess up or make a fool of myself is a whole different story,” Walls said. “If I had the chance to make the crowd go crazy though, there would be no better feeling."
-Edited by James Buckley