New Player Profile: Mark

Photograph (5)ABOUT MARK: You know that it is a special kind of good day when you get the email from Mark, announcing to “all” that he is coming. Kerry probably emails Mark 100 times a year to ask if he’ll come, and Mark can only make it about 3 times. Mark used to play Lunchsketball a lot more, but his company moved their offices  away from the court, which made it difficult for him to get enough time to play. Kerry keeps asking Mark nonetheless; all that rejection is worth it for those happy few emails.

Mark suffered an ankle injury (to phrase it lightly) in 2010. He emailed the group, “I am out 6 to 8 weeks. Broke my ankle.” What actually happened was that he had an accident playing basketball, and as a result his foot had become almost completely separated from the rest of his body. Kerry had a  picture of the injured ankle, and emailed it around (who wouldn’t want to see a photo of something like that?).  Mark was using crutches for about one year afterward. A few weeks following the injury, Mark vowed off basketball for life. It was a sad day.

He made his return to the court in 2012, and appears as good as new. Of all the players, Mark is by far the most dedicated to stretching. Even before the ankle disaster, Mark was careful about getting a lot of stretches in beforehand. Budget about 10 minutes of stretching from the time Mark arrives at the court before he looks at a basketball.

His signature move is one that he uses after an opponent scores on a really imprudent and aesthetically displeasing attempt (for some examples of ugly shots, please see the video, “Lunchsketball“). He will pick up the ball after it drops through the net, and then instead of in-bounding it to resume the game, he will just stand there, holding the ball in one hand, with the other arm akimbo, and make a face of disapproval and thorough disgust. And then he just keeps standing there, as long as he feels it takes for the gravity of what just happened to sink in. Before the game can continue, everyone must be brought to realize that the basket was shameful and wrong. Usually the offending player will be running back for defense, notice that everybody has stopped playing, and turn around to find himself being stared down by a frowning Mark.  Sometimes Mark says, to nobody in particular, or maybe to the basketball gods, “Really? REALLY?”, before shaking his head and starting the game again.

Mark takes long shots on the regular. Even before there was a three point line, Mark shot from what would be NBA range almost as often as from any other distance. The shot has been named after him, in fact. Today, if anybody shoots from that Mark range, Gary may say “Oh, that’s a Mark shot!” (exception: Erik calls those “big-kid threes”).

Mark is one of the game’s most tenured participants. His Lunchsketball career began well before the blog ever arrived. Here’s hoping that there will be many more Lunchsketball stories to tell about Mark.

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New Player Profile: Tim

If you would rather not subject yourself to a butchered performance of a reprehensible song, then here are the Cliffsnotes: The above video is a Lunchsketball first – a player profile, set to “music”. The lyrics are about how Tim, aka “T-Ry”, aka “Benjamin Button” is pretty good at basketball, but he gets hurt a lot. He is tough and will probably be back on the court eventually. The End.

New Player Profile: Gary’s Kids

OffspringABOUT GARY’S KIDS: Any time that Lunchsketball finds itself a player or two short, Gary hits the phones like an NBA GM at the trading deadline. He flips through a rolodex full of sons, grandsons, nephews, and in-laws who he can call up to the big leagues on a couple hours’ notice.

Gary Jr., Chris, Richie, Micheal, and David collectively serve the role of the proverbial “kid” at Lunchsketball. They fall in an age range between middle school and 25 and they share a habit of running around really fast the whole game. The fact that they look to varying degrees kind of like each other lends them a sort of interchangeability that is perfect for the role of Lunchsketball sub.

Chris has the most experience of the bunch. Chris is Gary’s son and goes by the mysterious nick-name “Fargell” [ far – jell ]. “Fargell” is a Gary family inside joke that none of them are comfortable explaining to the public.   All kinds of sailor talk has been known to fly at Lunchsketball, so what could it possibly be that would make anybody blush? The ambiguity surrounding the “Fargell” moniker only feeds the curiosity. One is left to speculate that the origins of “Fargell” are amazingly shameful and offensive.

Chris (aka “Fargell”) is a streaky shooter from the outside. When he shoots threes, he always steps on the line for some reason and so they become really long twos. Other than that, his only real weakness is that sometimes at 10:45 in the morning he is still too hung over to answer the phone when his dad calls, and so he misses the game. He must be near to graduating from the Lunchsketball kids program, and so his final appearances are to be cherished. He is sort of the Allan Iverson of Lunchsketball. Heart, hustle and defiance he wears all on his sleeve – his therapeutic compression sleeve.

Gary Jr. is Chris’ older brother. Gary has a lot of nicknames mostly tied to his being the second Gary; hence Gary the Lesser, Lower Case g, Gary 2.0, Gary XP, Gary Vista, Little Gary, etc. Gary Jr. plays the game with a style very similar to his father’s. Just like his old man, he usually scores on mid-range shots from the baseline. It is like watching Big G on fast-forward, except without all the shoving. Unfortunately, he comes to Lunchsketball less and less in days of late.

Micheal is the Micheal Jordan of Gary’s Kids. He’s not actually Gary’s kid; he is related, but must have received a stronger cocktail of basketball DNA than the rest. He never seems to need to work very hard to play well and he always just looks like he knows what he is doing. It is very annoying. Fortunately, he only shows up when the San Diego Unified School District is not in session, because he is only 10 or something. He is the most “the kid” of all the “the kids”. He can make an open three and he has a Tony Parker/JJ Barea sort of running floater that is unstoppable.

Richie is another steady contributor. Richie sometimes plays with his iPod on (a *very* “the kid” sort of move to pull). His style of play is like a compromise between Chris and Micheal, although he is probably the largest of “Gary’s Kids” and can play more in the paint, especially on defense.

Last but not least there is David who, like Micheal, only shows up when school is out. David seems perhaps the youngest of the group. He already has a  penchant for building a house of bricks all game long before proceeding to end it with a deep, nothing-but-net, three, and so his future looks bright.

Lunchsketball salutes Gary’s Kids. Were it not for you, many a lunch would be spent without basketball.

Franklin

HankABOUT FRANKLIN (2005-10): A true center is a rarity: he that has found one has found a treasure. There is nothing so fantastic as a pure center, and no scales can measure his excellence. Russell. Shaq. Kareem. Franklin.  Pure centers. True big men. The mighty giants of basketball have a way of growing even larger as legends when their playing days are long past.

The world of pickup basketball is full of gunners and ballhogs; finding a real center who lives to play in the paint is a breath of fresh air. Franklin, aka “Hank”, aka “Blanklin”, aka “Wahlrus”, was as true of a center as ever may be found on an asphalt court. He was a mountain of a man, who played for blocks, rebounds and glory. “Hanklin” joined Lunchsketball in 2005, a raw player, built like a draught horse, and with God-given basketball talents that were a match for a draught horse as well. Finesse was never a priority for the Wahlrus, but over the course of his five year career with Lunchsketball, Franklin experienced a metamorphosis into a high-impact player. When he was in the game, the court seemed to actually decrease in size; there was less room to shoot on the baseline, and less space to dribble in the lane.

PLAYER STATS
NAME: Franklin, aka “Blanklin”, aka “Tina”, aka “The Wall”, aka “Meathead”, aka “Optimus Prime”, aka “Franklinstein”, aka “Hank”, aka “Hanklin”, aka “Wahlrus”
BALL HANDLING: Not a dribbler. Thought the term “Ball Handling” was funny
MUSIC: 90’s grunge rock and Beatles
BEST SHIRTS FOR LUNCHSKETBALL: “Faux Paw” shirt, with image of wooden legged dog, or dinosaur shirt with words “Never Forget”

He was not shy about committing a foul. If you came into the lane, Franklin would take a swing at you, no questions asked. He didn’t aim for the grandeur of a clean, high-flying shot-rejection; no, he was just trying to hit the guy running past him, and he made no apologies. There is a certain noble sincerity in that; even if you got clothes-lined, you at least had the satisfaction afterward of knowing it was meant to be a clothesline all along. It is nice to know where you stand with somebody.

There hasn’t been a player like Franklin since. Lunchsketball will never forget.

New Player Profile: Marisa

This photo captures basketball not being played by Marisa.

This photo captures basketball not being played by Marisa.

Marisa has never played basketball at lunch. This has not kept her from insisting that she is going to play as soon as possible. Throughout some four years working with the Lunchsketball fellows, she has had an excuse each and every day for why it happens to be that she can’t play.

It is a shame that she doesn’t play, because reportedly she is a natural. It starts with her background: Marisa hails from the storied basketball powerhouse that is Brea Olinda High School. The basketball heritage runs rich and deep in those parts. The men’s team, for instance, is remembered for their inspired run to the 2000 CIF Southern Section championship game, where they were completely and thoroughly humiliated and destroyed by a Dominguez Hills High School (Compton) team led by Tyson Chandler and Tayshaun Prince. As for the women, the Brea Ladycats have been dominating girls’ basketball for years. See “Decades of Success” under the Brea Olinda Wikipedia page.

Marisa claims to have been a ballyhooed prodigy within the Ladycats program sometime around fourth grade. She had actually played her way to a “5” NJB rating amongst the scouts (5 is quite near the ceiling for the National Junior Basketball ratings, in case you live under a rock and don’t know that). She eventually chose to drop basketball in favor of soccer, breaking the heart of her coach. He was so distraught that he banished her from even casual participation in the Brea basketball program. She was basically the Jimmy Chitwood of Southern California 4th grade girls’ basketball.

PLAYER STATS
NAME: Marisa, aka “Shep”
CAREER LUNCHSKETBALL AVERAGES: #DIV/O!
FAVORITE TEAMS: Steelers, Lakers, Yankees, Cobra Kai, Goliath

For all her credentials, she has just as many reasons that she can’t play Lunchsketball. First she was too busy with work. As soon as she got a job that let her get away at lunch, she tore an ACL playing soccer. Then she had the ACL surgery. For the next 2 years, she needed to recover from ACL surgery. One day she actually said she’d play in the morning, but later changed her mind. Shortly thereafter, she was engaged, and couldn’t risk an injury leading up to the wedding. Next, she was with child, and refused to play. Excuses, excuses, excuses. That unborn kid is going to play Lunchsketball before Marisa ever does.

New Player Profile: Jacob

Jacob

Jacob’s overall presence calls to mind a sort of Lunchsketball Charles Barkley (from playing days, not Barkley the Hutt on TNT), and he has been proven able to withstand a great deal of blunt force trauma. He is not afraid to bruise, and moreover, when he takes a hit, it actually tickles him. Following the sickening thud of a collision, Jacob breaks out in loud, uncontrolled giggling.

Suppose that there’s a loose ball, with two players running for it from equal distance. This leads to a game of chicken; some guys just want it more and are willing to take the pain, and others don’t want the ball that much, and at some point decide (correctly) it’s not worth it, and steer out of the way. Jacob is in his own category. It’s not that he wants the ball so much that he’d run through a brick wall for it, but rather, he just wants the ball and he also happens to enjoy knocking bricks over.

PLAYER STATS
NAME: Jacob.
FAVORITE SAYINGS: “WOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!”
VERTICAL: Varies with his use of “Insanity” DVDs at home.
FG%: Either pretty good, pretty bad, or just OK.

Despite being built for demolition, he plays more of a finesse game. On offense he actually plays sort of a shooting guard. If you’re going to get a lot of points out of Jacob, then expect those to come  from outside of the paint, particularly from that short-baseline area where Gary earns his keep. On defense, he covers a lot of ground, and because of this, he’s a good fit on the undermanned team in a 3 vs 4 or 4 vs 5 game.

Jacob is opinionated and renowned for his game analysis and team-picking skills. He is a member of Gary’s top panel of consultants; when G would like to be extra sure that the teams are picked right, he can turn to Jacob for solid advice. Following a game, these two will find a time to meet and discuss what important conclusions can be drawn; what worked, what could have been done better, etc.

Jacob has played for years, and as of yet, no nick-name has really stuck. He is Jacob. That’s enough. He does have a famous catch-phrase though, and that is “WOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!”. He might yell this to strike fear into the opponents’ hearts or to boost team morale, but whatever the occasion, it is always yelled with enthusiasm, and it has become his signature.