Investment banker by day, gym junkie by night - but always a writer at heart.
Published July 27th 2014
Where to pickup basketball
As a competitive but casual basketball player, it's often difficult to find a good court to play a game of pickup basketball when you're not a regular. Most courts are either overcrowded, run-down, or charge ridiculous prices for use.
I spent many a weekend with friends travelling around to courts and have seen everything from uneven ground (a court built on a hill …), empty courts, courts that are fully booked for regular competitions, and courts that charge by the hour (and up to $50/hour too!). After much hunting around, I now play at only two courts that are within 20 minutes of Town Hall station, and it costs me somewhere between nothing and $5 all up.
For the low price of nothing, these public, outdoor courts are well-maintained and almost always bustling with activity. It's a well-known pickup spot but because there are 2 full courts (4 half-court games running), it's always possible to jump in, no matter how busy it gets.
Unfortunately, the rings no longer have beautiful nets on them as these inevitably are torn away by frequent use, but the floors are even and uncracked, and the paint is fresh and clear. The nearby trees provide some shade, depending on the time of day, and the ground is firm, relatively smooth concrete (but don't go diving for the ball). There's a row of seats near the bubblers for people who are waiting, but generally, players sit near the rings or the trees to watch the games while they wait.
The players here are of all ethnicity and skill levels, but the playing styles are more skewed towards guards as the demographic consists mostly of shorter players. Generally, the higher level players congregate together on one court where they play very competitively. The more casual players tend to play on the shorter ring (there's one ring that's a tiny bit below standard height) or on the farther courts, closer to the tennis courts. There are also regular female players who join in, though generally less frequently than the males.
As a bonus, Prince Alfred Park now has a new swimming pool in addition to its existing tennis courts, basketball courts, barbeque facilities, swings, and exercise bars. Even if basketball is not your main priority, this park is definitely a place to check out!
King George V Recreation Centre
With the one-time $5 entry fee, these are the cheapest indoor basketball courts around. On weekends, the courts are usually not that busy, so you'll generally have constant gameplay or one or two teams playing. On Fridays nights this place is jam-packed and full of competitive players. There are full court games (refereed and spectated) running between teams on occasion, but with 2 full courts, there's rarely a time you'll have to wait for too long.
With bleachers lining one side of the wall, and the indoor environment, there's always somewhere to sit. The beauty of indoor courts is quite apparent to anybody who plays basketball as it tends to be cooler due to the cover from sunlight, and the way the ball bounces off the floor and off the board (as outdoor courts tend to use wooden boards as they are cheaper). Plus there's no dust making the ball slippery and it's relatively safe to dive for the ball or tumble on polished wooden floors compared to concrete. Plus it's a bonus that the floors don't damage your shoes or ball as much, though the facility does provide free public balls for use. Generally you'll be playing with some high quality basketballs, like Moltens.
The players here are also from all ethnicities, but the skill level is generally higher than that of Prince Alfred Park. If you're looking for a pickup game, make sure you're not a beginner when you come here or you might feel outclassed, which isn't much fun. Unlike Prince Alfred Park, the playing style at King George V is more even between different positions. Whilst there are many outstanding guards, the players tend to be taller and you'll see more forwards and centres playing.
The facility has a toilet and locker room, as well as outdoor courts (basketball and tennis), football nets, and a gym.