What started as casual games of basketball has flourished into a daily tradition of camaraderie, exercise and fun; and the players say if you’re not there, you’re missing out.
Every weekday at noon, people from the Roosevelt and Curry county communities gather to play pickup games of basketball at Eastern New Mexico University Greyhound Arena’s north practice gym.
The group plays enough games, usually going until a team reaches 15 or 21 points, they can fit within the hour.
The games began nearly 20 years ago when ENMU faculty members and unofficial commissioners of “Noon-Time Hoops” Wendel Sloan and Donald “Doc” Elder III cooked the idea up as a way for them to have fun while exercising.
The games are open to the community.
Sloan feels what makes the games special is the diverse group of people, often composed of students, ENMU staff and community members, who play.
“We’ve played with hundreds of people over the years,” Sloan said. “It’s great exercise and good camaraderie.”
Sloan added that the games often provide an opportunity for ENMU faculty and staff to get to know students on a personal basis.
Elder said despite he and Sloan being a few of the older players on the court, they give the younger a players a match, except for one game where Elder remembers getting shut out 21-0.
“It was embarrassing,” Elder said. “That’s when I knew I was getting old.”
Here’s a look at some of the people who come out and play during Noon-Time Hoops:
Name: Robert Armijo
Occupation: Equipment manager for ENMU’s athletics program
Player facts: Armijo said he’s loved basketball his entire life. The former Portales High School basketball player said when he started his job at ENMU, it was hard not to play, but he was mostly inspired by the energy of Sloan and Elder.
“Seeing some of the older guys, they motivate me,” Armijo said. “This gym brings back a lot of memories for me too. This is where I spent a lot of time.”
Name: Jolene Hale
Occupation: Medical esthetician
Player facts: Hale is often times one of the only females on the court, but she admits she doesn’t get any special treatment. Hale said when she can make it, she gets a pretty good workout.
“It’s really fun,” Hale said. “No one is crazy competitive. People just want to work out and have a great time.”
Name: Reylon Wimbish
Hometown: Carson, Calif.
Player facts: Wimbish said he plays for a good cardiovascular workout and is best on defense. He feels the games help him with the difficult times on the job, both physically and emotionally.
“This is kind of therapeutic,” Wimbish said. “I use it to get my mind off of other stuff.”
Name: Gary Cox
Occupation: One of the directors at the New Mexico Christian Children’s Home
Player facts: Cox is also fond of Elder and Sloan, suggesting the duo be named “Doc Slone” after former NBA player Karl “the Mailman” Malone. Cox said he likes playing with the group because people pass the ball. Cox is also the father of PHS sophomore Sheraya Cox, a member of the Class 3A girls state championship team. He said he’s blessed his daughter is continuing his love for basketball.
Name: Andrew Anaya
Occupation: Student and track athlete
Player facts: Anaya said his fast feet benefit him on the court and gets a few fast breaks a day.
“I just like the energy and the competitiveness,” Anaya said.
Name: Dakotah Hicks
Player facts: Hicks said she’s best at rebounding and comes out to play for the adrenaline rush.
“I’m very competitive and I hate losing,” Hicks said.
Name: Duane Rogers
Player facts: Rogers is a new recruit of the Portales Fire Department and has been in the area for two-and-a-half months. He’s found that the games are a great place to meet new people in the area.
“I like interacting with the players,” Rogers said.