Seniors continue passion for basketball through rec league

January 31, 2018 — by Siva Sambasivam, Alex Wang and Jay Kim

Five seniors form a NJB team to enjoy playing basketball is a more relaxed environment without a huge commitment. 

As the final buzzer in the Santa Clara High Gym on Jan. 21, the Saratoga Varsity NJB (National Junior Basketball) team looked up at the scoreboard. They had lost again, this time by only four points.

But the players still had smiles on their faces. They high-fived and hugged each other as the buzzer sounded. There were no hard feelings or regrets, only shrugs — it was just another game.

Five seniors (Quinn Dozier, Kenneth Lee, Gaurav Mohan, Arun Ramakrishna and Kris Zhang), three seniors from Lynbrook, as well as two seniors from Mitty recently formed an NJB team in order to continue playing the game that they all love.

“We formed it because we didn’t really like how our school’s team was going,” Lee said. “We decided to quit the team and to join the NJB because we still wanted to keep playing basketball.”

In the league they play against other local high school students who have formed their own teams, once a week, at the Santa Clara High School gyms. Most of the players in NJB teams either failed to make or chose not to participate in their school’s team.

According to the players, being on the school varsity team is a big commitment. Training starts over the summer, and consists of a tournament in Santa Barbara, workout sessions twice a week, plyometrics, as well as open gyms. Weekend practices and those during breaks are also mandatory.

During the school year, players have to dedicate three and a half hours a day to practices. These practices often run overtime, sometimes even ending an hour later than scheduled.

On top of that, there are multiple games every week, some of which as far as Sacramento. In total, most players end up spending 20-plus hours weekly on basketball from late November through February.

Three of the athletes — including Lee, Zhang and Dozier — initially made the varsity team, but dropped out due to the heavy time commitment, and the fact that they might not have gotten many minutes during games.

“I would only have got 15 minutes a game, and in NJB I can get much more,” said Zhang.

Nonetheless, the players do acknowledge the merits of playing for the school team.

“School basketball is a lot more organized. We do drills and run plays that the coach designs,” Zhang said. “But NJB is fun. We call it practices, but we literally just meet up and play pick-up basketball.”

According to Zhang, the team is doing poorly in NJB, with a record of 1-5. However, he and his teammates enjoy playing in in the league because they feel no pressure to win games.

Furthermore, because the team doesn’t have a coach, the players run the show. Zhang personally appreciates this as he is able to manage his playing time on the court. Players distribute this time pretty evenly. In addition, Zhang and other players enjoy the aspect of creating their own plays and executing them during games.

“You already have good chemistry with your friends,” Zhang said. “It’s just about having fun playing the game and NJB allows us to do that.”

Besides it being fun, playing in the NJB allows the players to to play the game they love in a stress-free environment.

“I think the good thing about the NJB team is that it is much more relaxed, not as competitive and not a huge commitment,” Mohan said. “We have one practice before a game. We just play to enjoy our senior year, have fun and play with our friends.”

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