'King of the Court -Carlton’ - Mitch Lang

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The Carlton Gardens is known for it's lush lawns, beautiful tree surroundings that provide the right amount shade for comfort and a multitude of leisure - making it a true Melbourne hot spot!
On a nice day, the tennis courts are fully occupied, games of soccer are happening, frisbees are being thrown, the playground is full and of course the centrepiece of the Carlton Gardens, the basketball court, which has pick up games happening on each end of the court!
The basketball court is like one you'd picture to be in Central Park, New York - with chain nets, unique backboards, an unforgiving concrete surface and stunning park surroundings. 
After accidentally meeting a few of the guys on a rainy day at the undercover courts on Rathdowne Street, Carlton - it was a case of 'come join in the game we have going on', nothing standoffish at all.
After the game, speaking with one of the guys, he showed me their facebook group, I was keen to join to share some images taken from the day and also maybe get another game in some time.
What I noticed, this is more than a group, they've built a community that is all about meeting up and talking ball and playing ball at the Carlton Gardens, (or Rathdowne Street when raining).
From joining the group this is where I noticed something really cool was in the works, not just the community they've built, but an upcoming event that's completely inclusive to everyone, a tournament called 'King of the Court' consisting of pick up games in the Carlton Gardens, completely curated and organised. 
I wanted to find out more and get to know who's behind the curation and idea...
Mitch Lang, is 21 years old, moved to Carlton about three years ago and lives and breathes basketball.
Give us a low down on your basketball life:
I’ve been playing basketball since I was about 10 and played for Domestic and Rep teams all throughout my juniors from Camberwell Dragons to Hawthorn Magic.
Basketball has always been a pretty strong passion of mine and much like everyone else I dreamt of a career in basketball.
As soon as I moved to Carlton, I started playing ball at the courts behind the Museum, I fell in love with the chain nets and the constant flow of good ballers who flowed through the courts - next minute I’d find myself down there every day after work and in the weekends!
So you've definitely been playing for a minute at a high standard - do you prefer playing in a pick game style or a formalised game?
You see that’s where it’s hard to put my finger on.
There’s a huge difference between both game forms, personally I like to practice my game in a pick up game style where it’s a bit less formal, it gives me more opportunity to try stuff I wouldn’t normally in a formal game environment, so I can improve on it.
The feeling of winning a formalised game does feel pretty good too, especially winning as a team.
Ha yeah that’s the beauty of team sports, getting the W together. Are you still playing club ball?
Nah bro at the moment I just play in Carlton on a regular basis with all locals from the area.
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I only just came across the basketball community in Carlton and love how inclusive it is. Is it just a turn up and game on mentality?
Yeah man exactly right, anyone’s welcome at the courts whether you’re an experienced baller or just starting out, no age or gender restriction, everyone’s welcome.
The mentality is always just show and play the game, I’m a member of a Facebook group which my good friend Marcus added me too, he was living in Carlton for longer then myself and playing at the courts regularly, anyway in this group there are about 80 ballers who all go regularly so we can communicate when the courts are free, have good games going and find out what time people will go down.
It’s a sick way to keep in touch and ensure you’ll go to the court on a day where’s there’s plenty of people.
It’s a great thing to be able to drop a line and in 15 mins be playing a 4 on 4, with people you might not know so well, but are like-minded. So we know you’ve put together a tournament called ‘King of the Court’ when did the idea come about?
Well as I said I play at the courts on a regular basis and the competition was always very strong.
I thought it would be cool to set up a tournament where we could all get involved, but at the same time promote the Carlton courts and attract more ballers down to play.
I grew up admiring competitions like the Prahran Summer Jam, and thought this could be a way to bring a similar community together in the north.
The first tournament was held on the 14th of December, 2019, with our second taking place on Saturday the 29th of February, 2019.
 And you run this solo?
Yep that’s right, I take care of all the social media as well as MC the competitions on the day.
I have some friends help me out with stuff on the day such as scoring to ensure it all runs smoothly.
For example a couple mates put together a free bbq on the day for all players and spectators which was pretty cool! Really added to the vibe.
Huge effort, and it doesn't surprise me the community you’re in are willing to help to progress it. What have been the challenges along the way?

Well if I’m being honest right now it’s just the weather hahaha.
As they are outdoor courts a successful day is really reliant on the weather and being a Melbournian I’m sure you know how easily it can change haha. Honestly, when it comes to basketball it really represents itself by the players and the talent.
Promoting the event is probably the most difficult, but I know this will get easier as the community around it helps the event expand.
It’s just a beautiful thing to watch on the day, individuals who might not have even met, getting together for the love of basketball and showing great sportsmanship all day.


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It looks like it’s got some big hype and interest so promotion doesn’t seem to be an issue! How does the tournament work fixture wise how many players per team?
So each team consists of 4 players (1 substitute).
Each team is guaranteed 3 games in the round robin stage.
With the top 8 teams after this going through to finals.
As this is dedicated to Kobe, the RR games will be first to 8. With the finals first to 11.
The Grand Final being first to 24 in honour of the Black Mamba!

It would only be right, nice tribute! Do you plan on holding ‘King of the Court’ regularly throughout the year?
The goal at the moment is to have them held every summer.
The frequency is not yet known but I'm thinking at least about 3, if the hype and interest continues the way it’s going!

We look forward to seeing the progress! So what time will tip off be Saturday in Carlton Gardens?
Tip off will be at 10am sharp mate! Hoping for finals to start around 1:30pm!
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