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Whether played at a gym or a local playground court, pickup basketball is an entirely different beast from the officiated game. Players new to the pickup game tend to have lots of questions that need answering before they lace it up. Who calls fouls? Is it cool to talk trash? Is shirts and skins still a thing? To answer these questions, we turned to former college and semi-pro guard LaVar Merrell. Now a trainer at the East Bank Club—where none other than President Obama played on Election Day in 2008—Merrell gave us some tips on how to get the most out of your next pickup run.Be Proactive About Getting Into a GameMerrell's approach to getting playing time is simple: ask. "All you can say is, 'Hey man, do you have five? Can I play with you?’ Try to get in as soon as you can." Relying on your new shoes to get noticed won't necessarily get you into a game, either. "Whether you're wearing Jordans or Adidas or Nikes,” Merrell says, “we know some of those guys are just overcompensating because they're not that good.”Call Your Own Fouls, or Nobody Else WillSince pickup games don't have refs, fouls can sometimes become a point of contention. Should the ballcarrier call it when he gets hacked, or should the defender admit it when her hand-checking gets a little too physical? "The offensive player always calls fouls," Merrell insists. Some defenders will own up to fouling, but you shouldn't bank on it, especially if the contact is relatively light. Of course, it’s good to remember that "a slight bump is not a foul,” and you might get looked at the wrong way if you keep calling it as such.If You’re Hogging the Ball, Make Up for It ElsewhereNobody likes a ball hog, but your teammates should be fine with you jacking up lots of shots—as long as you make them. "If other people can vouch for you and you're a true scorer, then [it's ok to hog it]," Merrell says. But if you find yourself taking the lion's share of shots, be ready to make up for it elsewhere. You should be "getting rebounds, blocking shots, [and] at least playing some good defense.”Know Your Skills (and Your Limitations)Merrell advises all pickup basketball players to know their role on the court. "Stick to what you're good at," he says. If you know you can hit inside shots, don't stray far from the basket on offense. Still working on your three-pointer? Save the practice for when you're not in a game.Trash Talk Isn’t Just Allowed—It’s Part of the GameIf the player you're guarding scores a few in a row on you, don't be surprised to hear about it. Trash talk is part of what makes pickup basketball fun. "Trash talking is okay as long as it doesn't get personal," Merrell says, adding that anything said on the court stays there and shouldn't be taken to heart.This Isn’t the NBA, So Relax and Have Some FunA good teammate plays tough defense, moves without the ball, and looks to make the pass, but don't get too wrapped up in your LeBron impression. Remember, this isn’t Game 7 of the Finals. As Merrell puts it, "At the end of the day, everybody's just playing for fun.”Photos: Grant Walsh, Groupon.Read More