Amongst a horde of about 50 players who took part in a casual basketball game one Saturday evening, one participant stood out.
Active on both ends of the floor, this player does all the requisites.
Defending the opposition. Fighting for the loose ball. Passing to an open teammate. Taking the open shot. Nothing fancy or unordinary.
Except maybe for just one small fact: this baller is the only female regular of Sneakerhunt PH (SHPH), a community that organizes two-hour scrimmages at prime basketball courts all over the metro.
Nicole De Los Reyes, a former varsity player for San Beda Alabang, troops the various playing venues of SHPH for her weekly dose of pick-up basketball games. Invited by a friend to join one Sunday schedule, Nicole has become a fixture and a welcome sight in SHPH.
“Niyaya lang ako one time. Naghahanap ako ng pick-up game. Niyaya ako ng friend ko na maglaro dito sa SHPH. Sa Gatorade Hoops Center yung una kong game kasama sila,” said Nicole, who played shooting guard for the San Beda Red Lionesses in the WNCAA.
A self-confessed Kobe Bryant and Steph Curry fan, Nicole is unmindful of the physicality matching up against men on the hardcourt. Her formative years as a female basketball player were, in fact, spent playing with and against male counterparts.
“Simula nung bata pa ako, usually talaga boys kalaro ko. Nasanay ako na sila kalaban ko. Nung nag-college ako, dun lang ako may nakalaro na girls,” shared Nicole.
“Sanay ako (sa physicality). Mas gusto ko yun kasi mas nacha-challenge ako sa kanila,” she added.
One thing that impresses Nicole with the community are the playing venues where the weekly games are held. Spread through six days, SHPH has nighttime slots reserved at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong, Ronac Art Center in San Juan and the Playdium Arena in Quezon City.
“Lahat ng playing courts, ang gaganda kaya ginaganahan din akong maglaro. Lalo na sabi nila sa Playdium, pero di ko pa na-try,” Nicole quipped.
Same with other avid basketball players, Nicole found it difficult in the past looking for schedules in playing venues normally booked by recreational and corporate leagues on the long term. In SHPH, she stumbled upon a group that has locked up slots in top-notch courts in the metropolis which also serve as practice venues for various PBA teams.
“Ngayon lang ako nakakita ng regular na almost everyday (ang laro), one day off lang. Nagulat ako, first time ako naka-experience ng ganito. Since ako, gustung-gusto ko na may laro ako everyday,” Nicole remarked.
“Nagulat ako sa SHPH, everyday sila halos meron. Hindi ka na magtatanong kung makakabuo ba or what. Automatic kahit mag-isa ka, makakalaro ka dito sa SHPH,” she added.
SHPH also has an active social media presence through its official Facebook page, wherein schedules and photos are posted. Even video highlights are prepared and uploaded by the group’s founder, Joseph Aldea.
For Nicole, the SHPH community extends a big boost to local hoops especially for the weekend warriors and recreational basketball enthusiasts.
“Maganda yung ginagawa nila lalo na para sa mga individual na ballers na hindi makakuha ng pick-up games like anytime, anywhere. At least dito kahit wala kang mayaya or wala kang kasama, makakalaro ka kasama sila,” said Nicole.