Finessing hook shots, layups, and dunks, a group of Hillsdale College professors face each other in a competitive game of basketball at the gym’s indoor courts every Tuesday at 6 a.m. before class.
Christopher Heckel, a biology professor at Hillsdale College, initially organized the group as a way to do some fun cardio. They started with once a week, and later increased to twice a week during the school year and three times a week during the summer.
“The group grew from the four Hillsdale Academy faculty that played two on two for a couple of months,” Heckel said. “We have a lot of college faculty that send their kids to the academy, and they found out we were doing this and the group grew from there.
Rich Pewe, Justin Jackson, Zach Miller, Mark Panaggio, and Sam Webster are just few of the many who come out to play. Even a couple of college students join them. Though their goal is to have a good and enjoyable workout, the games are competitive.
“I always want to beat Rich Pewe and Justin Jackson,” Heckel said. “Rich is very competitive, so it’s fun to beat someone who is competitive like that. And Dr. Jackson is a pretty good trash talker, so it’s fun to beat somebody like that.”
Sometimes their competitive play results in big injuries, including an instance when Assistant Professor of Philosophy Blake McAllister got his front teeth knocked out. He also didn’t have a dentist and had trouble finding one early in the morning.
“I seriously considered going to my 8 a.m. and teaching, thinking my commitment to the truth might inspire my students, but I could hardly talk,” McAllister said. “So, I just waited a couple of hours for the dentist, who said there was nothing to be done but to shove them back into place and hope they stayed.”
McAllister said the dentist popped his teeth back into normal position, and continued playing next week wearing a mouth guard.
A memorable moment for Justin Jackson, professor of English, was from a previous game with students Peter and Noah Kalthoff, during which Peter Kalthoff beat his defender on the baseline but Jackson was too late running over to help and Kalthoff dunked on him.
“I’ve been dunked on many times, so that’s no big deal. But what was great was that Peter had the most precious smile on his face because he’s such a sweet kid and didn’t want to say anything or embarrass me, whereas everyone else couldn’t shut up because I never stop talking,” Jackson said.
“I think my team won, though, and I’m pretty sure I hit the game-winner.”
Heckel said he enjoys the competition, but it’s all for fun and there’s always another chance to win next week.
“There’s just a nice vibe to the group that plays,” Heckel said. “Everyone that’s there wants to get a good workout in, but it also gets pretty competitive in a good sort of way, nothing ever really gets heated. It’s just fun basketball.”