New gym offers fitness at ‘basketball heaven’ - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

New gym offers fitness at ‘basketball heaven’

May 18th, 2017 development
New gym offers fitness at ‘basketball heaven’

By Melody Birkett


A new gym that just opened in Chandler offers a fitness program like none other in the East Valley.

“This is the first basketball-focused fitness center,” said Jay Bhakta, the Gilbert man who owns PickUp USA at 221 E. Willis Road.

While many gyms provide basketball courts, PickUp USA offers organized, scored and officiated games by trained referees.

“It allows you to play on a team during timed, 10-minute games,” said Bhakta. “We’re the first franchisee here in Arizona. We’re expanding all over the U.S. right now.

“We run officiated games six days a week. We have two trained officials at all times on the court, rotated out. So, they’re fresh referees. It’s highly organized.”

Members simply put their name on a list, and are rotated into games.

“You get a real-game experience,” added Bhakta. “You get the buzzer beaters, the shot clocks, the fouls.

“There are 10-minute games so the winner stays in and you reset the clock and the next game comes in – 10 minutes, 10 minutes, back-to-back.”

PickUp USA doesn’t have “all the nuances of a regular pickup game like at a park – the foul calls, the hacking, the arguments and who’s next,” he added.

Pickup games are for anyone 15 and older but anyone as young as 5 can become a member and have access to the courts.

“We have the group-training sessions available to them,” said Bhakta. “They are basketball focused, hour-long boot camps. So, they work on different parts of the game for that hour: shooting, dribbling, passing.”

Gustine Crispin is already a member, along with her sons.

“First of all, I love basketball,” Crispin said. “I’ve been playing basketball for over 40 years. And now I have kids. My boys are 13 and 11. And this is a great place for them … This is a basketball heaven.”

Her older son Jamison, who goes by the nickname Jam, has been playing basketball four years and likes the idea of getting a workout and fine-tuning his skills at a gym.

“I like it,” Jam said. “Plus, I usually don’t sweat when I go somewhere, but now I’m sweating a lot.”

He just wishes there were pickup games for his age group because he has a goal of making it big: “I will be an NBA player.”

PickUp USA General Manager Steven Lancaster played professional basketball in Europe for six years after college.

“Basketball in itself has been a huge part of my life,” Lancaster said. “It has helped me get a scholarship for school so no student debt, so that’s a big thing. It helped me travel, not just the country, but in the world as well, playing in different tournaments and playing basketball overseas.”

He also played basketball with NBA All-Star LeBron James in high school.

“In high school, we were on the same Amateur Athletic Union team,” Lancaster said. “We were teammates when we were 15 all the way to seniors in high school.”

He has been playing basketball since he was 5, but tried other sports such as football, baseball and martial arts.

As a freshman in high school, he was 5’3.” But he had a growth spurt and grew to his current 6’3” by his sophomore year.

“Once I started to dunk a basketball, then basketball took my heart,” said Lancaster, who grew up in Ohio. “From there, I went to polish my skills and my craft and that turned into being an All-State performer, being rated one of the top players in the state. That translated to scholarship offers. From there, that translated into being a professional.”

After voluntarily leaving professional basketball, Lancaster became a trainer.

“So when this opportunity came about, I told myself, what better way to continue my love of basketball into something to give back to other people?” he said. “It kind of works out best in both worlds to kind of be the face of a place that is basketball and also to be able to train and to develop athletes, as well, so they can get whatever goals they want out of basketball.”

Lancaster prides himself on teaching things not taught by other trainers and coaches. He says he approaches training in a way that translates into a game situation.

“These young athletes who come here, they are entrusting us with the most important part of their life, which is their sport,” he said. “Granted, they all go to school but for most athletes, the thing they love most is their sport.”

Lancaster not only holds himself to high standards, but the staff as well.

“Everybody who trains with me or anybody at PickUp USA, I challenge them to challenge our trainers,” he said. “If they can’t give you an answer, then they shouldn’t be here, and that’s me included.”

Sonal Patel isn’t a member but is thinking about becoming one. She dropped by to check out the new facility.

“I think the concept is actually brilliant,” Patel said. “When I was in school, we played pickup at the park, wherever we could find a half court. I’ve been looking for a gym centered on being able to play pickup games and focuses strictly on basketball.”

She even jokes that when parents drop their kids off to play basketball, they no longer have an excuse not to work out since the gym also offers a full fitness center.

Aside from that, Patel added, “Team sports in general do such a great job at building confidence in kids. And having another avenue to have an opportunity to do that for your kids is great. And it’s probably more affordable than private club basketball and tournaments. I think it’s a great idea.”

Gym membership is $29.95 a month and includes access to the full cardio and weight rooms with free weights plus access to the basketball courts. For pickup games, the monthly fee is $59.95.

The pickup games are scheduled six days a week: Monday-Thursday, 6-10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

“For ages five and up, members get access to the courts year-round, seven days a week. They also get the group-training sessions, which run at various times throughout the week.

“If you have any ounce of interest in basketball, this is the place for you,” Bhakta said. “If you even slightly love shooting rounds, playing basketball, it’s for everybody. Any skill level, any age, it’s for everyone.”

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(Photo by Melody Birkett/Special to SanTan Sun News)

PickUp USA owner Jay Bhakta, on left, and general manager Steven Lancaster run a basketball-centric fitness program at PickUp USA Gym.