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Hoop-La: RISD’s Basketball Team is Having a Ball


The Balls warming up for a recent game against MassArt (photos by Nicole Mercer, Center for Student Involvement).

In the tradition of all great RISD sports teams (The Nads, The Jugs, The Pricks), our basketball team proudly carries a name that students at most schools might be embarrassed to shout in a packed auditorium. Thankfully, RISD students aren’t shy about supporting their Balls. Games draw crowds of cheering students who gleefully shout apt innuendos and chant somewhat inappropriate slogans as the Balls fly across the court.

Balls logo 

Team captains Gavin Engel 12 ID and Henry Freel 13 ID appreciate the enthusiasm of their fans. “They’re not so much into the basketball as the excitement of the game,” Engel explains. Last year one renegade fan from the Creature Creation Wintersession puppet class brought a giant alligator head to a game and ran around the back of the court dancing and attempting to distract the opposing team as they took their foul shots. His moves may not have been entirely legal, but the team and the fans alike loved it. 

Sadly, one especially distracting member of the RISD community has been banned from all Balls games this year: our beloved mascot Scrotie. Parents at the Wheeler School, the private school up the hill that allows its gym to be used as the team’s home court, find Scrotie’s enthusiasm to be offensive and have barred the boisterous phallus from cheering on his team with the rest of his peers.

Still, in spite of Scrotie's absence, RISD fans flock to games to support their team. The Balls roster includes 12 students in a variety of majors ranging from Architecture to Glass. Led by Engel, the often co-ed group is on the court from November to March, practicing every Tuesday night. “It’s a great stress reliever,” says Engel, smiling. “Tuesday night is a good time to play ball.”

 Balls fans 

Practices have been held on Tuesdays since the team was resurrected a decade ago by Joe Gebbia 05 ID+GD (one of the entrepreneurial trio that now runs the successful travel business AirBnB). The Balls were originally founded in the 1970s but were disbanded for years until Gebbia got to RISD and wanted to play. Since then, captains have been working with RISD students’ varied studio times and strange sleep schedules to get the team working together and to give the fans the great games they crave.

Game night always pulls plenty of fans out of their studios and to the gym to support their team. “Last year at the Cooper Union game in New York City, there were more RISD fans there cheering than there were Cooper fans,” laughs Engel. Students hitched a ride to the Big Apple on the team’s bus, leaving work behind in an outburst of school spirit. There are few things more rewarding than calling out racy chants at rival art schools as the Balls clash on the court. I guess RISD is a school that just loves its Balls.

Samantha Dempsey 13 IL 

related links:
The Balls 2012 season schedule
photos of Balls vs MassArt 
photos of Balls vs Sarah Lawrence 

tags: students

RISD has a long history of offering Saturday and after-school classes for children and teens, as this photo from c. 1910 confirms.