By Jeffery Armstrong
Basketball players gather for pickup games at various parks, gyms and playgrounds during the warm weather months all around the country.
The Clayton State University Laker basketball players get involved in their fair share of summer pickup games as well. Several current and former Lakers, along with other young and older basketball players in the area, try to meet at the CCSU gym as often as possible to get a good "run" in. Most of the time, the players meet Fridays at 4:30 p.m. or at 10 p.m. during some weeknights.
Friday's pickup game took place a little later than 4:30 due to a youth basketball camp that was held earlier in the day.
Former Mt. Zion High standout and current Clayton State Laker Lamar Rodgers said he enjoys the games because the team gets to play together throughout the summer.
"We also work on our conditioning when we play these games," said Rodgers. "The competition is great, too. We sharpen our instincts when we play, but unfortunately, we usually pick up some bad habits as well."
Jamal Johnson, who just finished his senior basketball year at Clayton State, said pickup games allow players to work on their games.
"I try to work on things to make my game even better when I play pickup ball," said Johnson. "The good thing about playing here is that there's different people that come out. You get a good mix of people to play against."
Mike Phenizee, another Laker who just finished his senior season, said that the players are basically "basketball junkies" who want to run as much as possible.
"We've got to get our exercise in," said Phenizee, who said he'll probably play pro ball overseas in the fall. "We love to play basketball it's what we do."
Phenizee said that former Lakers will come by the gym to run with the current Lakers all the time. Once in a while, things heat up between the Laker players.
"We usually just play with each other, but if the trash-talk gets serious, we may play old-heads against the new-heads," said Phenizee.
One "old-head" who came by Clayton State Friday afternoon to play was former Morrow High standout Carlos Head. Head played for the initial Lakers squad that went 3-24 in 1990 and improved to 25-7 and conference champions by his senior year in 1994.
Head, a guy who will crack a joke as quick as he will shoot a jumper, now has a pressure-washing business for houses and has two sons, leaving him little time to play pickup ball.
"I come up here to keep myself active and to see some of the guys I know," Head said. "You can't bounce that ball forever, but I try to get in a good run every now and then."