OKC Thunder’s BJ Mullens Played Pickup Hoops With Prisoners

by November 25, 2011

One could make the argument that 23-year old Thunder center BJ Mullens had the most unique basketball experience of all locked out NBA players this offseason. From ESPN: “The group walks through two more sets of fences and past several guardhouses before Mullens stands at the entrance to the gym. His pickup game is about to begin. In prison. Mullens was born in Canal Winchester, Ohio, and grew up playing basketball around Columbus. He lived off and on with his mother and five siblings until high school before moving into his own apartment, paying his expenses by working after school and on weekends as a plumber. During his junior and senior years of high school, Mullens lived with the family of one of his best friends. In his first year there, he and the friend visited a juvenile detention center to teach basketball clinics and talk to troubled teens about making better choices — and also to play pickup games. There wasn’t any particular reason they played there instead of a nearby gym or court, Mullens said. He just ‘wanted to go and play basketball’ and liked the ‘under-the-radar’ level of competition. After the Thunder’s playoff run ended last May, Mullens began offseason workouts with a trainer and played pickup games at Ohio State University, where he played for one season before going pro in 2009. But after talking this spring with friend Jeff Lisath, the assistant warden at Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe, Ohio, Mullens decided to play inside prison walls once again. ‘I played ball at some places for juvenile kids when I was in high school and I kinda wanted to get back into it,’ Mullens said. By mid-July, he played in his first pickup game at Ross, which houses mostly level 2 and 3 prisoners — medium and ‘close’ security, respectively. (The scale ranges from 1 to 5, with 1 representing ‘minimum security’ and 5 symbolizing ‘administrative maximum.’) ‘They play some really good basketball up here,’ Mullens said.”