Craft of Code

Austin Balarin

He Got Game


What’s a baller to do when they can’t find a game of hoops to join? If you’re Austin Balarin, a Jr Software Engineer, you build an app like Court Finder so players never have to drive around looking for pickup games.

Recreational basketball players spend more time looking for a game than actually playing in one. While the U.S. is blanketed in courts, finding an open court often involves driving to random schools or past community parks in the hope of seeing other players ready to shoot hoops. It’s an awkward and inefficient dance.

Austin Balarin was one of those players in constant search of a pick up game. A player in high school, he wanted to continue playing the sport he loved as a way to stay active after graduation. He also liked coding. So rather than accept that the only way to find a game was to randomly drive around town, he and some classmates built Court Finder, an app that started out as a fun project and now automates finding courts and pick up games. As he describes it, it’s a morph between Yelp and Google Maps for community hoops.

The app lets players set a time on a court they want to play at. They then share it with friends and can even set a check in so people will know which court they are already at. The location-based social aspect of the app eliminates the need to drive around in search of a pick up game. In the future, Austin plans to develop features to sort by court popularity and skill level. “Maybe you don’t want to go to the court where the ex-NBA players are part of the pick up game and get dunked on all night.”

Court Finder was built on Linode’s cloud computing platform and is dependent on Linode’s object storage technology to store and serve the site’s static assets (all of the court images), which Austin credits with making development easy and inexpensive.

“I started Court Finder with some classmates as a project while I was still in school and have continued building it out. We used open source tools to build it, which is something Linode has a deep history of supporting and makes development affordable. And because of the way Linode prices its services, I’m able to experiment with production level environments for very low cost. All of which is important with an app like this that has the potential to scale given the number of courts and players across the country.”

Sounds like a slam dunk.

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