NCAA College Basketball teams react to COVID-19 and prepare for winter season

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Neon Tommy

Alyssa Martin blocks a shot from an Arizona State player in the 2011 Pac-12 Tournament. 2011 was Scott Rueck's first of ten years at Oregon State.

Just over a month ago when a majority of the United States shut down due to the coronavirus, the NCAA had to make a decision on the upcoming March Madness Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament. Thursday, March 12th, 2020 was a day that no sports lovers ever wanted to see happen. The NCAA decided to cancel the 2020 March Madness tournament, ending the collegiate season, leaving seniors who were looking to compete in the tournament with a bunch of “what if’s?”.

The question is, how did teams find out about the tournament getting cancelled? What about the seniors? How are teams and coaches continuing to prepare for the 2020-2021 season? Scott Rueck, Oregon State Women’s Basketball Head Coach explained how his team found out about the tournament cancellation. “The team was arriving at the practice facility when the news broke around 1:20. I was on a phone call so I didn’t hear about it and I was the last person on our staff to know.” Rueck continues to mention that once he heard the news, he had 20 minutes to figure out how to tell the team and find a way to honor the seniors whose careers had abruptly ended. Rueck explains, “I had my boss come in, and she shared the NCAA’s decision from her perspective. After that, I just looked at them and said ‘what do you guys want to do?’” 

This was a reaction that most teams had once the news broke. In that situation, each team had to figure out how to cope within their own team. Teams especially had to figure out how to honor their seniors, which in Oregon State’s case, their four seniors chose for the team to go to Dutch and then play kickball. During such a strange and sad time, activities such as playing kickball was enough to make the team feel united and that they would get through it together.

As for how teams are continuing to prepare for the 2020-2021 season, recruiting has been taken to a whole different level. With coaches not being allowed to do home visits and athletes not being able to visit campus, the whole recruiting process is done over the phone and through contacts, which happens to be very similar to how Rueck had to recruit when he coached at the Division III level at George Fox University. The OSU women’s basketball athletes are continuing to do workouts at home given to them by their strength and conditioning coach, as are many teams nationwide.

However, coaches and team members are experiencing something they haven’t been able to have in a long time — family time. Rueck shares, “The silver lining in this is the fact that I can’t travel. The knowledge and just the comfort for everyone that dad’s going to be around and for me to know that I’m going to be around.” He then states that this is the longest stretch that he has been home in the ten years he has coached at OSU. For his family and many families involved in athletics nationwide, there is a positive look on the situation, and that is that they are able to spend more time as a family together.

For as long as social distancing lasts, teams around the country are adapting to their new norms, but are still holding out hope for a redemption season later this year!