COVID changes how basketball is played – on and off court

“The sport of recruiting has changed quite a bit because of the pandemic,” says Men’s basketball head coach Brian “Boomer” Roberts.

Since COVID-19 shut down the United States, everything that was considered “normal” behavior — including college athletics — has been replaced by a new “normal.”

“With all of this going on, we have had far less recruits on campus, compared to past years because of testing regulations,” Robert said. “While we can still go see certain high school and junior college games, being able to have the recruits come to campus and walk around and see what is being offered here is certainly a disadvantage for us this past offseason.”

Though the men’s team has three true freshmen and one redshirt freshman for the 2020-2021 basketball season, Roberts acknowledges that his staff has a lot to learn about adapting to the pandemic.

“Our two freshmen, Logan [Phillips] and Anthony [Irvin] who come to PNW from Arizona, signed their letters of intent before the pandemic, and so we as a coaching staff are still learning how to recruit and sign guys during all of this.”

Even more important, Roberts wonders what the lingering effects of COVID 19 will be on recruiting.

“Obviously, it has impacted the 2020 and 2021 classes, not only for us but for colleges and universities everywhere,” he said. “But we won’t fully understand the true impact for maybe another few years or so.”

So far, the men’s team has not signed anyone for the 2021 class.

The pandemic has forced other adjustments, as well.

“I believe that the biggest change during our day-to-day basketball activities is having to take COVID tests that are necessary, not only for the players but everyone in our community and country,” Roberts said. “Depending on certain factors around the week, such as travel and who we play (playing a team in Michigan means that testing must be done every day to be able to play), we will normally test around twice a week on average.”

Senior forward Jyrus Freels has also felt the change this season. The single biggest change was the loss of his mother.

“I lost my favorite person in the world and my biggest fan, my mom,” Freels said. In August, Freel’s mother, Antoinnitte McGlown, died at the age of 57 in Evansville, Indiana.

“She made me the man I am today, and she was the first one to ever put a basketball in my hands,” Freels said.

A focus on basketball helped him get through the pain.

“This is the first year that I can compete in the conference tournament ever,” he said. ”As a team, we have been setting a lot of records for the school and just being able to have a season at all this year, we all couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

The men’s team ended its season with a 7-7 record, .500-win percentage. Robert said he is proud of his guys.

“You know this pandemic is something that we are all dealing with for the first time ever and just watching the guys every day I would say they have handled everything well on and off the court,” he said. “We are very thankful to be playing while having a healthy team for the entire season and that is a testament to the guys that we have, who go out and play hard and practice harder for us every day. We are grateful to have a chance to compete.”