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Local basketball teams back on the court after layoff

The restart of athletic activities on Monday meant that after a nearly three month layoff due to the COVID-19 pandemic local basketball players were finally able to take part in organized team activities again.

Basketball’s season had already ended prior to the cancellation of spring sports, but the athletes missed out on important practice time because of the pandemic.

Now programs have to put the pieces back together while adhering to a series of strict guidelines from the Mississippi High School Activities Association.

Poplarville Girls Basketball

The Lady Hornets were coming off a season in which they narrowly missed out on a playoff spot and the spring was meant to be a time of learning and growth for the young team.

However, those plans were postponed due to the pandemic and now the athletes will have to make up for lost time.

Part of the MHSAA’s guidelines include the minimization of sharing equipment between athletes, so each athlete is given their own ball at the start of practice and not allowed to pass it to a teammate.

This means the current focus for Head Coach Robin Jeffries and her players has been improving ball-handling skills while improving the athletes’ conditioning.

In the past the Lady Hornets would participate in numerous summer games against opponents to get some game experience during the offseason.

However, that isn’t an option for Poplarville due to the MHSAA’s rule that prevents competition between teams, which Jeffries sees as being detrimental.

“We’re not going to see anybody else as competition or be able to adjust to other types of games. We’re limited (in that aspect) because we’re just practicing amongst ourselves and the kids know what other kids do,” Jeffries said.

The one-dimensional aspect of intra-squad scrimmages, along with the litany of guidelines from the MHSAA, means Jeffries has had to get creative in the design of her drills.

Not only are athletes not allowed to share equipment, but social distancing measures and restrictions about physical contact means the athletes are limited in the training they can take part in.

“I like to do a lot of drills and I don’t want to stay on one for too long. The kids aren’t interested in staying on one drill so I have a slew of those, but they require things we can’t do right now,” Jeffries said.

Pearl River Central Boys Basketball

The Blue Devils hadn’t hosted their tryouts prior to the pandemic forcing the shut down of sports, which means right now they’re only practicing with the 12 returning players from last year’s squad.

Head Coach Scott Stephens said he’s planning on putting off tryouts until school starts back up again because he doesn’t want to host one over the summer then deal with a low turnout because of the pandemic.

“I would hate to have tryouts and a lot of kids not be able to be there, and then go back in August and have to do it again. I’m trying to avoid doing it twice,” Stephens said.

Another part of the normal summer routine for the Blue Devils is to attend a team camp, but at the moment the MHSAA is prohibiting programs from taking part in travel camps.

The effect of these camps can’t be understated because it not only benefits the team on the court, but off the court as well.

“I think there’s some disappointment because our guys love the summer, getting to go to camp and spending the weekend with teammates wherever we may go. I think they definitely miss that aspect,” Stephens said.