Your Friendly Neighborhood Sports Columnist

The month of January brings cold weather and periods of prolonged inactivity to many on the Williams campus. IM basketball offers a respite for many from this sluggish behavior.

Yet this year it means more to a select group of ballers in the Men’s A league division. It’s about respect. It’s about bragging rights. It’s about drawing a line in the sand.

It has become apparent that any one of four talented teams could waltz away with the much sought after A league title. Verbal barbs have been flying all week across the courts at Chandler gym.

JR Mathieu ’02 has proclaimed his team, called “The Haters,” to be the “complete package.” Mathieu, plus Jelani Perry ’02, Andy Ramirez ’02 and Bobby Mahajan ’02 make the team a very guard-oriented squad.

Though their team speed is a definite advantage, it has become apparent that their most effective weapon is the 3-2 matchup zone they introduced this week. Zone defense in intramural basketball is not the traditional style, and this has flustered opposing teams.

Alex Birdsall’s ’00 traditional style is talking a big game, but he nonetheless calls his opponent’s zone “a joke.” Birdsall’s team, “The Program,” which features a powerful front line of Jared Silverstein ’00 and Brendan Nelson ’00, as well as former JV standouts Brendan Kinnell ’00 and Ira Boudway ’00, lost to the sophomore-dominated Haters earlier this week.

The contest did not take place with both teams at full strength, a fact that had Birdsall looking towards a rematch later in the season. “I have five words for you,” he said. “You can’t stop the three.”

One major problem was that they could not claim the boards without Silverstein and Nelson, which allowed their speedy opponents to dictate the pace of the game.

A-league basketball superstar Jason Stojkovic ’00 feels that too much preseason hype has been bestowed upon these two teams. His team, called “Senior Studs and Jeff O’Neill,” has just enough experience and savvy to have an impact on the league, and is always ready for gameday.

Approached for comment, the normally bashful Stojkovic had this to say about its competition: “Birdy’s team is too bitter to win. The former JV team (the Haters) might be alright, but they are a little too flamboyant and cocky. All we need to do to win is give me the damn ball.”

Senior Stud teammate John Mayhall ’00 added that one issue affecting the team is that “our drinking team has a basketball problem.”

Strangely enough, the team no one is talking about is the one that finished second last year. This motley group returns all impact players from last year’s squad, including “Crazy” Bob Stanton ’01, Kevin Cummings ’01, and Michael Valenti ’01. In addition, they gained effective slasher Ian Lewis ’01 and former B-league star Aaron Snyder ’01. Unofficial team spokesman Stanton warns the rest of A-league: “We might not have the former varsity or JV players that the other teams do, but we know how to win. We’re like a small turd. You overlook us, but eventually we’ll clog the toilet.”

As the season rolls on, it becomes obvious to all those surrounding the A league championships that the regular season hinges on how many members of the team actually remember to show up for each game.

However, come playoff time, the intensity creeps up and the real champions eventually arise out of the fire. Who will climb to the top is anybody’s guess, but that’s why they play the games.