Winter intramural basketball is the place to be at Haverford College
By Jordan Schilit
The fields of Haverford College are all covered with an abundance of snow; temperatures fall and students huddle inside their dorms. But shoes are still being laced and baskets sunk and the gym inside Gooding Arena is just getting warmed-up.
No, this isn’t the NCAA. March Madness won’t tip-off until three months from now. But don’t think basketball throwing, breakaway tackling, and trash talking are out of the picture. You can’t ignore the on-court antics. And some soak in the drama. But this particular basketball league is generally fun and enjoyable.
“Sometimes IBB gets a little heated,” said A league leading “Dot Com” Captain Nathan Karnovsky. “Guys get into arguments but after the game ends, it’s as if they never happened. IBB provides a fun, competitive outlet.”
Intramural Basketball (IBB) at Haverford College is a tradition that dates back at least into the 1980s. This year, IBB has two leagues. The “A” league is more competitive. Teams are usually made up of varsity players from other intercollegiate sports. The “B” league is more casual. Teams are usually made up of students who have little basketball experience. There are a total of 20 teams — seven in the A league and 13 in the B league. Each team plays approximately 10 games throughout the regular season. In addition, the A league has an organized playoff system for the four teams who end the regular season on top of the standings.
IBB is heavy with players who play varsity in other sports, but turn to basketball during their off season from baseball, soccer, lacrosse – you name it.
The A league is entirely male this year. Dot Com, a primarily non-varsity athlete sophomore team, currently sits atop the pecking order in the standings. Haverford Baseball has two A league teams. Men’s Lacrosse has split up into two teams as well. Soccer and freshman varsity athletes have also entered teams.
In the B league, teams are often coed and sometimes entirely female. They range from the women’s varsity lacrosse, field hockey, and soccer teams to junior varsity men’s squads. Some lineups are filled with pick-up basketball naturals, whereas others have players with no playing experience.
Haverford Basketball captain Matt Palmer ’10 is the current IBB commissioner. He organizes the A and B leagues and determines their schedules. He makes sure to watch every IBB game during the season.
“I have noticed that IBB is taken very seriously at Haverford,” Palmer said. “Most teams in the A league consistently hold practices.”
Both the A and B league teams have two games scheduled per week. The first games are either on Wednesday or Thursday. The second games are always on Sunday. All games are played in the Calvin Gooding ’84 Arena.
King of the Court
Dot Com has dominated the A league this season, beating every team at least once. They are still undefeated and will be vying for back-to-back championships on Sunday.
Nathan Karnovsky, a former varsity player for Haverford Basketball, is the backbone to Dot Com’s success. He was recruited to play basketball at Haverford, but decided to quit because he disliked the team’s atmosphere. The sophomore is joined by four of his classmates – John McClure, Andrew Ahn, Wilson Guaraca, and Bertrum Lee. Senior Ben Frisbee and junior Vadilson Pina also rotate in the starting lineup.
“I definitely see us going undefeated,” Karnovsky said. “We have a bunch of guys good enough to play varsity, and more than that, we play very well together. My high school team had a lot of talent and we won a lot of big games, but never played with the same togetherness of Dot Com.”
Dot Com doesn’t have to change much in terms of strategy for the finals. The success for Dot Com has sprouted from flawless teamwork. The players have kept their composure the entire season. Winning the games for the team has been the key goal, not individual statistics.
“Our team chemistry works well simply because were all really good friends,” Karnovsky said. “We communicate very well with each other. I also think that being a group of non-varsity athletes makes us want to win a little bit more. We feel like we all have something more to prove.”
The top dogs will face #3-seeded “Sophomore-Junior Baseball” in the finals.
Haverford Basketball starts heating up during the winter, but that’s when all other varsity sports aren’t in season. It’s not surprising that IBB is the most popular non-varsity sport on campus. Many teams are enthusiastic with team spirit and even wear matching shirts, jerseys, colors, and headbands. Players are almost always dedicated towards winning for their teams.
There are, of course, people who play IBB to individually improve their basketball skills or to meet Physical Education requirements.
“Playing IBB has been especially important to me as a former basketball player looking to maintain my skills and play against some pretty decent competition,” Karnovsky said.
But most play with their varsity teams to work on team unity and cross training.
“Playing basketball with my friends on the baseball team is great. It definitely builds camaraderie and creates a stronger unit of guys for the baseball season,” said Charlie Carluccio, captain of the Senior-Freshman Baseball team.
“From what I have seen, Intramural Basketball has definitely been a team building experience,” Palmer said.
Julie Shaner Young, the Head Coach for women’s varsity lacrosse, is the faculty advisor for IBB. She thinks it is important that her team plays IBB before starting its season, and believes that other teams have made a smart decision by doing the same.
“There is a unifying nature with Intramural Basketball,” Young said. “The games themselves may be competitive, but the league brings out the best in many teams. It teaches them to learn to work together.”
According to Young, there are certain concepts in almost every sport that relate to each other.
“You learn more about whichever sport you are playing competitively by playing other sports,” Young said. “A lot of the same strategies still exist and tend to overlap.”
Young emphasizes the importance of her team – as well as others – to interact and get to know each teammate. She also feels that mingling with opponents in a kind manner is possible, despite all of the competition.
The women’s lacrosse team and many other squads use IBB as a means of cross training for the spring semester. So, IBB can be seen as both a fun activity and a competitive sport.
“Even with the small student population at Haverford, there are a lot of varsity athletes who play,” Karnovsky said. “And while not all of them are particularly skilled basketball players, the level of athleticism on the court is often impressive.”
Hoops with an Honor Code?
Haverford College promotes a society of friendship and unity, but winning IBB games is a constant reminder of inequality and bragging rights.
“I am a competitive guy and strive to win at everything I do,” Carluccio said. “Being able to compete with other guys that have the same determination and drive that I do is great. It doesn’t matter if it is on the basketball court or on the baseball field.”
According to last year’s IBB commissioner Marc Rudolph ’09, players sometimes forget that they still represent Haverford College on the basketball court.
“I think that competition often brings out an ugly side of people, and a lot of students become decidedly un-Haverfordian when involved in a tight IBB game, sometimes getting involved in personal altercations with players from the opposing team,” he said. “This is not the type of confrontation that the Honor Code was getting at.”
“Even though it’s just intramural, we always play really hard,” Karnovsky said. “I especially tend not to hide my emotions. I sometimes get pissed off, but that’s mainly because I am so zoned into the games. My teammates know that it’s just part of who I am on the basketball court.”
Trash talking is often an issue. Sitting at an IBB game for even only a few minutes will introduce the competitive exchanges that occur between teams. The verbal nudging usually begins innocently, but it doesn’t take long for the situation to turn more serious. Many creative insults on the court hint that there are venues at the school where speech is not restricted by notions of political correctness and, for that matter, basic human dignity.
But the tension built up during IBB games is mostly just during the games themselves. Fortunately, IBB is still a fun and healthy activity for many students.
“The games pretty much always end with handshakes and a return to mutual respect,” Rudolph said. “I wish [certain] incidents didn’t happen, but I think they are a natural byproduct of competing with peers and as long as they end when the whistle blows, I am cool with that.”
“During the actual games, IBB can bring out a competitive, non-communal nature. At times they can get pretty heated,” Carluccio said. “But after the games you realize what it actually was – a game. IBB is supposed to be fun first and foremost. Yes, it gets frustrating and tension can build, but when the game is over and you shake your opponents’ hands everything goes back to life off of the court.”
Court-wide or Campus-wide?
IBB is the most popular non-varsity sport on campus, but how does that reflect the Haverford College community?
“People really enjoy being on teams together. It’s a fun thing,” Frisbee said. “People like creating teams simply because of the nature of our campus. It gives people the opportunity to work together as a group and accomplish something special.”
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say that IBB is unifying the campus, although our team certainly has gotten to know a few of the varsity athletes, especially baseball players, through the games,” Karnovsky said.
“I can’t say that IBB is unifying the campus,” Carluccio said. “It may unify some sports teams and friends who play together, but not the campus. For the teams and groups of friends it is definitely a unifying activity that brings you closer to one another, but for all the others who do not play, I’m unsure if it has any impact on them.”
But IBB unifies in the sense of common interest, even if some don’t find the league specifically as catchy. The statistics can’t hide here – the student body at Haverford College is attracted to athletics. According to Haverford’s athletic website, over 40% of the students compete on a varsity team.
“It’s clear that people at this school enjoy sports and athletics,” Frisbee said. “You can tell that from the student body’s high participation percentage in varsity and club teams on campus.”
Dot Com sometimes scrimmages with a few other teams in the A league. “We organize these games on our own,” Frisbee said. “These are separate from the IBB league. Both teams benefit from these practices. This mindset is possible at Haverford. We’re a close campus, and here people enjoy interacting with each other.”
IBB games may not always be pretty, especially when many players don’t have years of competitive basketball experience. But IBB was made for students who truly loved to play basketball, and better yet alongside friends with that same interest. The games demonstrate the thrill of athletic competition in its purest form and serve as an important function in balancing student life at Haverford College.