PRCC basketball programs taking different approaches

Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 6, 2020

The basketball programs at Pearl River Community College are now preparing for an unusual summer because the teams will have to adapt to the current COVID-19 situation as campus begins to reopen.

As restrictions have lifted across the state the coaches of athletic programs at PRCC have had to formulate plans on how to best return to campus and resume training.

While there is still uncertainty on how the summer months will progress, both the women’s and men’s programs are proactive in their approach moving forward.

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Men’s Basketball

Chris Oney is the head coach of the men’s team at PRCC. His squad had made history with a program high 28 wins while going undefeated and earning a number one seed in the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament last season, the first school from Mississippi to ever do so.

Instead of getting to compete for a national championship the team’s magical run was cut short as COVID-19 forced the cancellation of spring sports.

Now Oney and his staff are preparing for a summer that’ll entail more team bonding exercises than in the past, along with some lighter workouts to start off the return from such a long layoff.

“Normally we’d try to jump ahead with individual growth and put in concepts of how we’re going to play and things of that nature. Whereas this year it’ll be more about team bonding, especially with what’s happening in the world socially,” Oney said.

Recruiting was another aspect of sports that got shut down by the pandemic, but Oney said his program was lucky in that the majority of the recruiting had already taken place prior to the pandemic.

Several athletes have signed with the Wildcats over the past couple of months as an example of the work done by Oney and his staff before the world turned upside down.

Players are set to return to campus June 29 and what will follow will be a series of workouts and meetings to prepare the Wildcats for the upcoming season.

“We’re going to be cautious and take it a little bit slower than we normally do. We normally hit them hard in summer to give them a shock and get their minds right, but this summer (will be different),” Oney said.

Women’s Basketball

Head Coach Scotty Fletcher and his program will be taking a different approach to the summer.

Instead of having the athletes return for workouts the players won’t be required to come back to campus until school starts.

Fletcher said this is being done out of an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which means the athletes won’t take part in organized practices until the fall.

Fletcher said because basketball isn’t one of the first fall sports to resume competition that it wouldn’t be necessary in the current climate to have the athletes return for summer practices.

Instead, Fletcher and his staff will preach the importance of safety to players while sending them workouts to do at home during the off months.

Recruiting will be a big part of the program’s summer, especially without having the athletes on campus to participate in practices.

While the Mississippi High School Activities Association isn’t allowing schools to play each other, Fletcher and his staff still plan on hitting the road in search of prospects by attending practices.

“We’ll just start our recruiting effort for next year’s class and identifying prospects for the future, (while also) making sure incoming freshman and returning sophomores are working out and getting prepared for the new normal,” Fletcher said.

In the past, the program would host camps and summer league tournaments, which would allow Fletcher to coach upcoming talents and evaluate them.

Those opportunities won’t exist this summer, so the recruiting process has become less efficient.

“Lets just say (in the past) you went to Bay High and watched their summer league.”

“You’d get to watch 12 teams that day, but now you have to go to 10 different schools to see 10 different teams,” Fletcher said.

How the fall will look is still up in the air, but Fletcher said no matter what practices look like when schools start back up, the staff will focus on the athletes’ safety and getting them back into shape.

“We’ll be making sure to stay within the NJCAA guidelines of proper workouts. It’ll mostly be conditioning, weight lifting and introducing our system week by week,” Fletcher said.