Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Rec Center basketball attracts older players who love the game

Nicole Fox
John Russell makes an effort to push past defender Guillaume Bastille Oct. 27, 2023 at Student Recreation Center in Carbondale, Illinois.

Among the students who play basketball at the Southern Illinois Student Recreation Center is a group of folks who look decidedly different, their hair is gray or gone and they have the lines and wrinkles of older age.

This group has been going since the 1970s when Roland Person first came to Southern as a faculty member at the library. In the beginning, the group played in the SIU Arena and sometimes in Davies Gymnasium, but later moved to Pulliam Hall Gymnasium, until the Student Recreation Center was built.

“First of all, I’m 80 years old. I’ve been playing ball off and on since I was in elementary school, but I’ve never been really good. After eighth grade I was never on varsity, only intramural stuff,” Person said.


The Student Recreation Center was dedicated on Nov. 5, 1998 and gave the group a place to continue their intramural league.

Nowadays, the group of about 15 to 20, plays Mondays and Fridays and occasionally on Wednesdays if there are enough players.

This is a great way for faculty, staff and community members to get some excessive in during their busy work days and utilize the Recreation Center.

“I play for three reasons. One is for the exercise, I would be too lazy to just run on my own,” Person said.

He followed with, “I like playing a structured game and I enjoy the results. The exercise makes me feel better. Lastly, I enjoy the camaraderie of the other guys.”

Playing with the group for as long as Person has been around Southern has given him a step up. While many may think his age is a set back for him, playing the same guys for so long has helped him and other players learn each others’ moves and quirks, allowing them to better guard each other.

Having the chemistry the group does also allows for its good share of light hearted trash talk, Person said.


Another member of the group is Gregory Wendt, a video producer in SIU’s Center for Teaching Excellence and 1998 graduate of Southern who loves the competitive game.

“Personally I love to compete, I’m a very competitive person, I’m in good shape and I love to play basketball. It is a beautiful game, it’s a great way to express ourselves, to exercise and to get the competition,” Wendt said.

The group organizes its teams to be as balanced as possible in terms of the players’ ability. They do not have referees, but players call their own fouls. They try to focus on passing the ball to give everyone equal opportunities.

When the group has enough players for substitutes, members allow everyone to sub in and on the occasion that they have more than three substitutes they play to five points and then make new teams so everyone gets the opportunity to play.

“Everyone has their own reason for playing, most people love the game, some people played on high school or college teams when they were younger, others have just played recreational like I do,” Wendt said.

Like Person, movement is a big part of why members play.

“I like to get exercise, the Rec Center is a fantastic resource for anyone in the community so we take advantage of it. The [basketball] courts are in great shape, the staff there is very helpful and it’s a fantastic place for all different kinds of sports,” Wendt said.

Other members of the group utilize the rec center for things other than basketball. With a membership at the center members are allowed to use all resources there, anything from the pool to the weight rooms and many different sport courts.

“A number of the guys work out as well as play ball. A lot of the guys utilize the pickle ball courts and occasionally we have women play in our group,” Wendt said.

Many of the members, including Person and Wendt, have been playing basketball for a while and continue to enjoy the game.

Wendt has been playing since after high school. He was not on his high school team, but he started playing as a young adult in Long Island when he was traveling to New York. He likes to play wherever he travels if he can.

His favorite thing about playing basketball is winning a close, competitive game.

“Especially if I hit a winning shot or make a winning assist. I love rebounding, blocking shots and stealing the ball. Basically I love the whole game,” Wendt said.

Reporter Joei Younker can be reached at [email protected].


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    Roudy HildrethNov 15, 2023 at 5:19 pm

    I loved playing in the NBA (noontime basketball association) while I was on the faculty!