Call him Scoop.
Everyone else does.
Even the ladies working the front desk at the Monroe YMCA greet him with, “How you doin’ Scoop?”
That’s what he prefers to be called. “I don’t use my first name here,” he says.
For the record, it’s Doug. Last name “Ernst.”
Scoop fits better.
It originated during his high school days in Southern California.
“The kids kept calling me Scoop for this underhand layup shot I had,” he says. “I was pretty good at it.”
He’s still pretty good at it. Even at 62 years of age.
“I think of myself as 25, not 62,” he says.
And why not? He plays several times a week with guys considerably younger.
One night recently, his teammates in a game were a flashy eighth grader, a high school varsity player, and a semi-pro player.
That was one of four games he played that night, lasting about two hours altogether.
So how did the AARP guy do? He more than held his own, though he wasn’t satisfied with his performance. But then, he’s his own toughest critic.
That’s why he’s in the YMCA gym five days a week (he takes weekends off). He arrives at 6 a.m. for a two-hour workout.
If he had games the night before, he’ll work on the things he didn’t do well, be it ball-handling, a certain move (and he has many of them), or shooting. Let’s say his three-point shot failed him. No matter how long it takes, he’ll make 50 before he goes home. And the left-hander takes at least 100 shots every day.
The thing about Scoop is, he loves the game and he takes pride in his performance. If you go to the Y, you’ll see him in the gym, often the only person in there, working on different aspects of his game. Sometimes, he’ll be tutoring a youngster, as he did with my grandson a few weeks ago. At the end of an hour, Joe, who is 11, said, “That guy really knows his stuff.”
He really does. But he does more than just play the game. He studies it, watching especially the NBA, (he prefers it over the college game) storing away certain moves players make so that he can try them in his own workouts. He also picks up stuff off the internet.
All to make himself a better player. And, he reasons, the better he plays, the more fun it is. The more fun it is, the harder he works to stay in shape. It’s what he has to do to keep up with the kids he plays against.
“Whenever I play, there are always guys who are either stronger or quicker or better ball-handlers or better shooters than me,” he says. “So I try to learn some tricks to counter those deficiencies.”
You might say he’s an old-school player. That is, he knows the basics, which so many young players either don’t know or don’t care to execute in a game. He’s very good at making no-look passes. That is, he doesn’t telegraph his passes. He’d rather make a good pass that leads to a basket than make a basket himself.
None of this escapes the learned eye of Tony Watkins, a 28-year-old from Michigan who plays semi-pro ball in Seattle.
“He’s very good for his age,” says Watkins, a powerful and agile 6-foot-8 player who aspires to play in Europe. “He still comes in mornings and works out like he’s 21 or 22. That’s stuff today that kids don’t know anything about. That says something about him. If I can be his age and play the way he plays, that’ll make me very happy.”
Talk with other youngsters who have played with or against Scoop and they’ll tell you they appreciate his game, as well as his energy and effort. Jason Golden, who played varsity ball at Monroe High, offers this observation: “I think he’s crazy good. He plays smart and he’s not selfish. I hope to play like that when I’m his age.”
Scoop can also give you a studied breakdown of Golden’s game. Or of anyone else – boy or girl – who plays for Monroe. You see, he seldom misses a Bearcat game, home or away.
“I’m there in my orange stocking cap, my orange t-shirt, offering advice,” he laughs. “Not that anyone listens.”
He played only one year in high school, and didn’t take up the game seriously until the age of 30, playing pickup games on outdoor courts in Southern California where he grew up and worked as a policeman for 29 years. After retiring in 2006, he and his wife, Linda, moved to Monroe so they could be near their daughter, Stacey, who lives in Sammamish.
Scoop is such a basketball fanatic that he visits YMCAs in other towns to play pickup games. He’s laced up his shoes in Everett, Issaquah and Mill Creek. “Finding out when they play is the problem,” he says, “though, in Everett you can always find a game around noon.”
He can also find guys older than he on the court in Everett. “There are 70-year-olds playing,” he says with a bit of relish.
When he’s not playing basketball, Scoop is making improvements on his home in the Fryelands or out on his Honda Rebel 250 motorcycle. He has a summer trip planned to Sturgis, South Dakota, for the 73rd annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
He’ll transport the bike in his truck, taking side trips along the way.
Who knows? He might even find a game or two as he rambles.