Seniors love for basketball strong as ever

Written by Bob on November 29th, 2012

Bill Pittman plays much younger than his 76 years.

YUCAIPA, Calif. – The high, leaping jump shot? The fast break? Not so high, and not so fast anymore.

Their physical skills may have faded over the years, but what remains as strong as ever is their love for the game. And the men who play senior basketball at the Yucaipa Community Center, and the Loma Linda University Drayson Center still have plenty of that.

Their ages range from 50, such as Wallace Frisbey, the youngster of the group, to Bill Pittman, who plays much younger than his 76 years.

The seniors – numbering from 12 to 20 – get together from about noon to 1:30 three days a week to play the game they can’t seem to let go. They play hard and they play to win. But as far as in-your-face defense and win at all costs, that’s a no-no. Their game has become much more social than when they were youngsters tearing up the hardcourt.

“Our camaraderie is great,” said Pittman, who is a deadeye from about the 18-feet range. “I’ve been playing with these guys for about five years, and we’re all friends. But before joining the group, Pittman hadn’t played for about 40 years.

But a heart attack motivated him to do something about his health. One day at the Loma Linda University Drayson Center he saw some older guys playing basketball. They asked him to join in and he’s been with the group ever since.

And it’s done wonders for his health. His respiratory system is strong and he’s maintained his weight at 160 pounds on his trim, 5-feet-9 frame, he said.

The group is a diverse mix of skill levels. Some never played competitive basketball, while others starred in high school and college. And one of the best senior players is a former Olympian.

Reynaldo Brown was a high jumper on the 1968 and 1972 U.S. Olympic teams. But he also played high school and college basketball. At 6-feet-6 he towers over many of his fellow seniors. And at 58, he’s one of the younger and more agile players, but he doesn’t take undue advantage of that.

“We get together to play and have fun,” said Brown, who lives in Riverside. “We come out here and sweat and do the best we can. This gets us up off the couch and doing something we did years a go. It’s a great couch-buster.”

Some travel from Ontario, Redlands, Highland, Loma Linda, Victorville, and Running Springs just to hoop it up with players in their own age range.

Frisbey, the 50-year-old self described “baby of the group,” loves playing basketball at the senior level because the unwritten rule is that everyone gets plenty of touches and gets to shoot the ball. And he gets exercise without the drudgery of going to a gym.

“This is recreation plus a workout and time passes fast,” said Frisbey. “This is much more fun than standing on a treadmill for an hour.”

The seniors’ game has its rules: Age fifty and over and your in; otherwise, no “kids” allowed. No intentional fouling. No hogging the ball. No rough stuff. And those with roughhouse tendencies are asked to knock it off, or leave.

“We have a good time playing, but we play responsibly,” said Bob Glennon, 67, of Highland, who has been with the group for 11 years. “We don’t want anyone to get hurt. This is social and exercise for us. The goal is to have fun and to keep going.”

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