Playing Pick-Up Basketball With Saquon Barkley
Saquon Barkley is easily one of the most talented athletes in any sport at Penn State. His mixture of speed, strength, and agility, along with uncanny vision and work ethic, will make him a whole lot of money in the NFL. And based on my brief personal experience with Saquon, he’s more than deserving.
I played on the 7th and 8th grade basketball teams at my just-outside-of-Philly middle school, and even on the ninth grade team in high school, before hanging up my Js. Despite my unbelievable size (5’7, probably 125 pounds at the time), I decided to turn my attention elsewhere after that ninth grade season. If we’re being honest, I don’t think Coach K was going to come knocking on my door even if I’d stayed with the sport.
Now that you understand how immensely talented and intimidating I am on the court, and that this story has some more meat to it, I can get into things.
My friend Jon and I, along with our respective girlfriends, decided to spend a frigid February evening last year at the basketball courts in IM to get some light exercise in. We played some 2-on-2 and shot around before talking about what we should do for dinner while wrapping up our shootaround. That’s when Saquon Barkley, Marcus Allen, and Andre Robinson (among others) walked in and started to shoot around on the other end of the same court.
Of course, I alerted my friend, and we tried to play it cool as we basically just watched them in awe. Before long, Saquon came over and asked us if we wanted to play a 5-on-5 game with them — the answer was obviously yes. You never turn down a Heisman contender.
I was put on Saquon’s team and Jon was put on Andre Robinson’s team as we squared off. Unfortunately, Allen sat out the game, so I didn’t really get to interact with him, although I’m sure it would’ve been memorable. I dished an assist out to Barkley and scored a basket of my own (which is a personal highlight) on our team’s way to victory. I can’t lie, though, because I didn’t have much effect on the outcome of the game. I mostly just stood there as blurs raced across my vision and toward the baskets.
A few things struck me as we played against these premier athletes, though. First of all, they are definitely premier athletes. Both Barkley and Robinson had serious speed and strength that was nearly impossible to defend against. Even trying to keep up with the speed of the game was challenging.
The classiness of James Franklin’s squad definitely shined through, too. Before the game started, Saquon asked me what my name was so that he didn’t have to call me by the color of my shirt. I know it may not seem like much, but a college student with that much clout, if you will, could easily be not-so-interested in learning some random kid’s name for a pickup basketball game. There are plenty of people with a whole lot less going for them who act like they own the place. I truly believe that the Penn State coaching staff has done a great job molding these young players, although Barkley pretty much already has all of the positive personality traits you could want in a player. I mean, the guy was even down-to-earth when the cameras were off and no one was listening.
Most importantly, however, these star athletes’ lives as normal people shined through. I got to see them acting naturally and having fun with their friends. It’s easy to imagine these football players as robots who should listen to us as we yell from our couches. Seeing these players in what was clearly a comfortable setting for them was a totally different experience, and it made me an even bigger fan.
Oh, and here’s some proof that this game actually happened (I’m on the left):