At the basketball courts at Church Square Park on Garden Street between Fourth and Fifth streets, dozens of youngsters hit the concrete pavements after school ready for some hoop action.
Jonathan Rodriguez, 16, from West New York, is enrolled in an after school youth program in the mile-square city. He takes a bus into town, and after his class, he goes to the park with a bunch of his friends for pick-up games of "21."
Rodriguez has been playing basketball for several years and enjoys the competitiveness and challenges the park draws.
"I like to drive to the hole on every possession," Rodriguez said. "We get some good competition here. That's why we come."
The park is packed on any afternoon during the week in the summer, Rodriguez said. People wait on the sidelines for hours sometimes for their turn to play.
Rodriguez' friend Germeal Reed comes to the court as well.
"This is one of the cleanest parks I've been to," Reed said. "The rims are nice and the trees block the sun."
Like Rodriguez, 17-year-old Reed takes a bus to Hoboken from his home in Jersey City after school. He has been playing basketball recreationally all his life. Considered a "big man" on the court, Reed stays on the low-post and waits for a pass inside from a teammate or for the chance to grab an offensive rebound to score.
"I like to use my body against people," Reed said. "That's why I like Shaq [Shaquille O'Neal from the Los Angeles Lakers] so much."
For Reed, basketball played a large part in his childhood. After years of watching his cousins play, he picked it up quickly. Now, he admits, he plays better than they do.
"I just play harder," he said.
Basketball is more than a sport, it is a way to meet new friends and escape from everyday concerns, according to the boys.
"We come here and shoot-it-up and if you want to play with us, come on," Reed said.
Most "ballers" wear baggy mesh shorts, high-top or mid-top sneakers and t-shirts or jerseys. According to Rodriguez, some players stay hours at a court practicing their jumpers and other moves.
"Everybody has game now," Rodriguez said. "You go anywhere and people come at you with skills."
Raphael Cox, 16, Luis Gonzalez, 17, and Shy Johnson, 15, all from Jersey City, also come to the park and play. They said that some of the courts in Jersey City are often packed, and that the equipment is not up to their standards.
"I love the sport," Cox said. "I love it so much I don't care about anything else. Basketball is love."
Church Square Park is where all the competition in town congregates, Cox said. That is why he takes a 20-minute bus ride to get there.
"Basketball is what we do well," Rodriguez said. "Mainly, we come out here to have fun."