Wednesday evenings free? Stop by the JCC

Pink Team member junior Bennett Bloebaum is guarded by Teal Team member sophomore Tyler Diffley in a game Wednesday, Jan. 19. (Photo by Mead Gibson)

The brisk winter months can make hanging out with friends particularly difficult. It’s too cold to go outside, and spending time with a large group of people at home can often be complicated. However, the Jewish Community Center gives students the opportunity to come together and play in a basketball league with their friends.

Senior Sam Powers explained that the JCC basketball league allows Columbus-area high schoolers of all grades to compete with peers in a welcoming environment.

In order to be a part of the league, interested players attend open gyms and are then put into a draft where the captains of each team select members, junior Jerry Merchant said.

Powers said that any senior who wanted to be a captain was awarded the position.

The league has eight teams and a total of 50 players, Merchant added.

He explained that although there are no official practices, some teams choose to hold practices separately in order to prepare for their games.

However, all teams play in the games, which are held Wednesday evenings in the JCC gyms, he said.

The JCC athletic director is in charge of making the schedule, and players do not have to be Jewish or male to participate, Powers added.

Junior Grant Davis explained that a tournament was held at the end of the season in early February in order to determine a championship team.

“Since the league had to take a year off because of COVID-19, I was really excited to get back into the game,” Powers said.

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the number of player absences at each game, Davis added.

“Omicron has been detrimental to the league, as we have had to sub out players or even play four-on-four games because of our lack of players,” he said.

He explained that the league is very important to him because he has been coming to the JCC since he was young to play basketball with his friends.

“My favorite part is just being able to play with my peers in a fun, safe and competitive environment without the pressure of playing for the high school team,” Davis said.

Powers said that his on-court successes have been some of the most rewarding aspects of the league.

“My favorite memory was that in the first game of the season, I scored 39 points,” he said. “It really brought my team together and made us more confident for the rest of the season.”

Powers said he particularly enjoys having something to look forward to on Wednesday evenings.

“It’s something to look forward to all week because I know I’m going to get time to play with my friends,” he said.

In addition, Davis explained that the league has been around for decades, as his father was also part of a basketball league at the community center when he was in high school.

“The league is really a generational thing,” he explained. “Ever since the JCC has been open, they have had a basketball league.”

Merchant explained that he simply enjoys the opportunity to be with his peers.

“My favorite part is getting to play with friends and being the best team in the league,” Merchant said.

Although it was his first year, freshman Elijah Horne said that he is looking forward to playing for the rest of his high school career. He added that being able to bond with the older players in the league made the experience truly impactful for him.

“Ryan Bernstein gives me rides to all the games, which is nice because I like spending time with him,” Horne added.

He said his most cherished memory from the league was being a “freshman of the year” candidate.

Davis said he encourages all students interested in the league to try it out, even if they are apprehensive.

“Give it a shot, show up to the open gyms, and nine times out of 10, you’ll love it,” he said.