Friendships, rivalries and fan accounts: A breakdown of basketball teams who play for the J

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Michael Lolley

Dribbling behind the back, sophomore Sawyer Reidt sets up an open jump shot. In October, Reidt and a few friends had the idea to create a J League basketball team. “We were just looking for a way to hang out more at first,” Reidt said. “It turned into us making a whole team once the Mag1c Stairs first started. I’ve had so much fun with it, and I hope it becomes a tradition with our group of friends.”

Established in 1880, the  Jewish Community Center (the J), formally known as the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, has been a part of St. Louis’ history for decades longer than the Gateway Arch. One service provided by the J is recreational sports leagues for both youth and adult players. Basketball leagues at the J have made their way into the student body at full speed.

“I think it’s really cool that we have all these teams,” sophomore and founder of the Average Joes basketball team Sawyer Reidt said. “It has really opened up some opportunities for me to talk to some people I never would have talked to before.”

The Average Joes are just one of the four teams made by students, which also includes the Mag1c Stairs, the Tropics and the Chocolate Thunder.

“I’m in a class with two other guys on the team and we were trying to think of funny names,” Reidt said. “We went through a lot of names but Average Joes, like in the movie ‘Dodgeball’ really stuck with me.”

Throughout the season, players have met new friends and teammates from playing on the teams.

“I knew some of the guys on my team and on others, but I never really talked to them before our first practice,” junior and founder of the Mag1c Stairs Matt Hanses said. “I had met [junior] Griffin [Snyder] before but we never got to know each other until [junior] Isaac [Kitrell] invited him to come, and we all got to know him a little better now.”

Hanses’ story is one of many different friendships being made through the J and the basketball leagues.

“When I first joined the J league, I was just trying to find a way to hang out with my friends but actually go and do something too,” sophomore and founder of the Chocolate Thunder Ethan McLeod said. “Basketball is a sport that is very dependent on your teammates, and when you’re on the court, you are playing as one and just doing something fun as a group that everybody is enjoying.”

Basketball is a sport that is very dependent on your teammates, and when you’re on the court, you are playing as one and just doing something fun as a group that everybody is enjoying,”

— sophomore Ethan McLeod

Along with friendships, rivalries have formed. The Average Joes and the Chocolate Thunder have scrimmaged against one another in the pre-season for bragging rights.

“Leading up to the day of our scrimmage there was a lot of trash talking between our teams,” McLeod said. “It definitely created some rivalries just like regular high school basketball does.”

Although some trash talking goes on at school, on the court or on Snapchat, the main way the teams communicate is through team Instagram accounts.

“We’ve only joked around with teams we know like the Mag1c Stairs. It goes both ways, and we have fun with it,” senior and founder of the Tropics Tyler Gilmore said.

The oldest of the four teams, the Tropics have had their Instagram account for two years now and posted every final score from last season, making sure that their fans stayed up to date on all the team news. Other teams like the Mag1c Stairs and the Average Joes use their accounts to announce new players and give a spotlight to each player. The ideas that each team uses are emulating how National Basketball Association (NBA) teams use their Instagram accounts to post team updates and final scores. 

“It makes for a lot of fun. Being able to post funny videos, highlights and scores so our friends can see is awesome,” Gilmore said. “This year, we are going to try and get people to come to our games and make a fun environment. The whole point of the league is to joke around and have fun with it.”

Many of the players play other sports along with basketball and have busy schedules trying to balance sports, school, work and friends.

“We have two practices a week for our team, so really, we have two days a week where we can hangout and just be friends,” McLeod said. “Often times, everyone’s busy, and you don’t have time to hang out, but this team allows for us to get together more than we usually can.”

Although the season is just eight games long, players on the various teams feel it has been used as a way to create new friendships and strengthen old ones.

“I wish I had done this a long time ago; everything about the team has been so fun, and I hope that I can do it again next year,” Reidt said. “I’ve learned the right way to play basketball is lazy and careless, and I’ve made so many memories.”