PRCC basketball left to wonder, what if?

Published 7:00 am Thursday, March 26, 2020

Picayune Pearl River Community College’s basketball team was dominant all season, that is until the season was cancelled due to the current pandemic.

The team was undefeated after rampaging through both the MACJC and Region XXIII championships while racking up a program record 28 wins.

PRCC was named the number one seed in the NJCAA tournament, but were unable to compete due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

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On March 16 the NJCAA canceled all spring athletics, leaving the Wildcats wondering what could’ve been. Now, the team will never know if it could’ve brought a national championship back to Pearl River County, but Head Coach Chris Oney said his team will get through the tough times.

“It’s my job as a leader to turn to a positive outlook on all of it. We started to talk about the things we had already accomplished instead of things we wouldn’t get a chance to accomplish,” Oney said.

The NJCAA announced that spring athletes wouldn’t lose a year of eligibility due to the cancellation, but because basketball is considered a winter sport the players on the basketball team had no such luxury.

Another aspect of the cancellation of spring athletics was the postponement of on and off campus recruiting until April 15, at which point the NJCAA is expected to reassess the suspension.

Recruiting is a year-round activity for college coaches as they strive to find the best players for their programs.

The decision to suspend recruiting is reasonable, but it now leaves the Wildcats in a strange position.

“It kind of hurt because we had a lot of momentum with recruiting, especially with the year we were finishing up. I don’t know how big of a blow it’ll be, a lot of our roster was filled, but we still had some key spots we were closing in on. Now we just have to wait and see,” Oney said.

Oney said the one positive is that his program isn’t the only one dealing with issues stemming from the pandemic.

Programs across the country have to adapt as campuses close and athletic activities are suspended.

However, Oney still wants to try to put a positive spin on the situation as the program deals with the fallout of the suspension.

“If nothing else it allows me to say we ended the year undefeated and ranked number one in the county and headed to win a national championship. I think we had a lot of great weeks and won great games,” Oney said.

Oney said the team’s impressive season will be a lot to offer to incoming recruits, even without the national championship. PRCC has won the region twice in two years after not winning the region at all for an extended period of time.

Oney said that’s a good sign for the program as it continues to add more talented players to the roster in its quest to bring home a national championship. “I think all in all what we can get out of this the most is that the program is trending in the right direction. I’m excited we were able to accomplish (what we did), just disappointed we weren’t able to show the nation just how good we really were,” Oney said.