For Gary Byas, Bob Marvin, Larry Miller and John O'Connell, acting their age is about being young at heart.

The four will take their passion for basketball to the Southwest next year, having qualified for the 3-on-3 competition in the National Senior Games. During the event, which will be held June 14-25 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the team will play in the ages 70-74 division.

The men met while playing three times a week at the Marion-Franklin Community Center, 2801 Lockbourne Road. They represented the facility in the Ohio Senior Olympics on June 30 at Westerville Community Center, finishing as the third and final Ohio qualifying squad for the national event.

"We usually play basketball five days a week," said Marvin, a New Albany resident who lives in the Gahanna-Jefferson school district and is a 3-point specialist. "We play Monday, Wednesday and Friday here (at Marion-Franklin) and then we all go to various places the rest of the time. We just don't want to be sitting around."

O'Connell, a Grandview Heights resident, is the elder statesman at 71. His three teammates all are 70.

"That's the way you want to build a team. You want to have three younger guys playing with you," O'Connell said with a smile. "It's fun for the exercise and the camaraderie, but it's also competitive. These guys can play."

O'Connell features a hook shot, while Byas can light up the scoreboard from 3-point range. He hit six 3s during a pickup game July 11 at Marion-Franklin.

"That's because I wasn't getting mugged (by the defense)," Byas, a Sunbury resident, said of the 3-point success. "For a shooter to be effective, you have to get a good screen, and I was getting them."

Byas has been playing in 3-on-3 events for almost 10 years and really likes what the game has to offer.

"There are so many different facets with 3-on-3 that I like," he said. "The best thing is that everyone has to play man(-to-man defense). You're not able to (play) zone.

"I also like that it's so competitive. I played 3-on-3 in Chicago in the 60s (age group), and the competition across the country is incredible."

Miller lives in the eastern Ohio village of Byesville but also has a home in Plain City. A veteran of 3-on-3 competition, he learned of the Marion-Franklin group while playing last season in the state games.

"The team that I had from the Cambridge area lost some players, so I started coming up here to play because I was in Columbus a lot," Miller said. "I'm the shortest guy, probably 5-(foot-)9 or so, and when I started playing (at Marion-Franklin) they didn't know my name so they called me the 'fast guy.'"

O'Connell is the tallest player at "around 6-2," and both Byas and Marvin stand around 6-0.

Height can be a determining factor in a lot of the contests, all of which are half-court games.

"We're as good as you can get around here, especially for our size," Byas said. "The thing we got into trouble with was going up against a team of really tall guys. But 6-0 and under, we're as competitive as anyone around."

In the state games, Ohio No Limit from Akron was first and Old Gold from Maineville was runner-up.

"We lost all of our games (in the four-team, round-robin competition), but they were close (contests) for the most part," Byas said. "We lost the first game by one, another by three and another by one.

"We were worn out. We tried to play with four guys and everyone else had like six or eight. We would have liked to have six guys because those teams were going three in and three out all the time. We weren't able to do that. We might have more (players) before we go (to nationals)."

In the 3-on-3 competition, teams play two eight-minute halves with a running clock and a three-minute halftime during pool play. Pool play determines seeding for bracket play, which features two 10-minute halves.

"We're looking into getting into some tournaments between now and (nationals)," O'Connell said. "I saw there were some in Cleveland and Cincinnati that we'll look into. We're going to play it by ear."

Despite having the longest drive to Marion-Franklin, Miller enjoys making the trips and playing basketball with his friends.

"I just love to have the competition and the friends that I have made," he said. "I feel like I have known them for 20 years. I have something to do instead of sitting in a chair."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen