By Rob Potter
JEFFERSONVILLE It’s just before 7 p.m. on a Thursday night in late December and the 1938 gymnasium at the Sullivan West Elementary School in Jeffersonville is filled with men of various ages doing some stretching exercises, dribbling basketballs and practicing their jump shots.
Soon six team captains are chosen and they select their teams from the guys standing in front of them. With six teams chosen most of which have five players, while a couple have a sixth player the decision is made to also use the school’s 1961 gym in order to play games.
Then at 7 p.m., fullcourt games begin in both gyms and continue for the next two hours.
Every Monday and Thursday night for nine months of the year, the men gather to play in this recreational basketball program.
“We’re here every Monday and Thursday night from September through June,” said Ed Justus, who is the leader of the program.
He was quick to point out that the program does not have games when school is closed due to inclement weather or a holiday break.
“This program has been going on for a long time,” said Justus, a Jeffersonville resident and mayor of the village. “I have been playing in this program for 30 years.”
Justus, who took over running the program from Jim Hammett a few years ago, noted that most of the men who participate in the program live in the Sullivan West Central School District. There are a few players who live elsewhere in the county. Anyone is welcome to come and participate.
To help cover the necessary insurance costs for using the school’s facilities, each player pays $2 to play for the evening.
There are some slight variations in the games compared to a high school or college game. There is no timed quarters or halves the winner is the first team to reach seven points. Each basket no matter if it’s a layup or a halfcourt shot is worth one point. The players call their own fouls and keep track of the score.
When a game ends, the winning team remains on the court and the team that was resting on the sideline steps up to challenge that winning team.
“Most of the players are in their 20s and some are in their 30s and 40s,” Justus said. “There are a few players in their 50s. I am 55 years old and probably one of the oldest guys out here playing. But I have been playing basketball my whole life and I am happy I can still get out on the court and play.”
Justus explained that on a typical night, an average of 15 to 18 players show up to play. But during December and January, that number grows as several guys who are home from college come to the school ready to go. For example, on Thursday, Dec. 22, more than 30 men played.
Justus noted the program would not be successful without the cooperation of the Sullivan West Central School District.
“The school administration and custodians treat us very well,” he said. “Whatever we need, they try to accommodate us.”
Many of the guys who participate in the program played basketball in high school. Some even played basketball in college. But they all enjoy getting on the court two nights a week to play the sport they love.
Jason White, a 2002 graduate of Eldred Central School, has been attending the program for about two years. While at Eldred, he played two years on the junior varsity team and two years on the varsity team. He then played one season for the Penn State Schuykill men’s basketball team, a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III team.
“I like being able to come here twice a week and play good basketball,” White said. “It’s nice because we pick teams every night so you get to have some new teammates each time. I just like playing as much basketball as I can.”
White, a 27-year-old Jeffersonville resident, also enjoys the level of competition in the program.
“All of these guys want to come out and show they can still play,” he said.
One of the younger guys to play in the program is R.J. Rosa, a 2010 Sullivan West graduate who is now majoring in Graphic Design at Sullivan County Community College.
He was a member of the SW varsity team for three seasons and likes being able to keep his hoop skills sharp by playing in the program.
“I like that it is very competitive but fun at the same time,” Rosa said. “There are a lot of good players in this program. The games are competitive, but after the games everybody is friendly.”
Twenty-two-year-old Derek Hahn of Youngsville was a three-year member of the SW varsity basketball team before graduating in 2007. He then played four years of college basketball at the NCAA Division III level for SUNY IT in Utica and SUNY Oneonta. In those four seasons, Hahn scored 1,059 points and grabbed 900 rebounds.
“It’s a lot of fun and a great way to keep in shape,” Hahn said. “It’s really competitive. For just $2 a night, you can come here and play basketball with some really good players and have fun. You can’t beat that.”