Unusual practices the new norm for basketball programs

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, June 9, 2020

As basketball players across the county begin to restart athletic activities, they have to adapt to guidelines set by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.

The restrictions are in place to help programs find the safest way to return to sports, so teams are now doing what they can during a summer unlike any other.

Pearl River Central Boys Basketball

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An integral part of the travel camps PRC had been a part of in summers past were the competitive scrimmages between squads.

However, this summer teams will not allowed to take part in travel camps under MHSAA guidelines, meaning players are missing out on those reps.

The MHSAA has stated that if programs are to have a team camp it must be at their own facilities, limiting the options of certain programs.

The lack of summer games because of the restrictions means teams will have to find other ways to get their athletes meaningful reps in game-like situations.

“It definitely hurts. Summer is a time for you to build chemistry, time for you to work on things you’re not great at. It’s a time to allow young kids to get experience they didn’t get in the regular season. June has always been invaluable for us,” Head Coach Scott Stephens said.

Stephens said the loss of spring practices, along with the restrictive guidelines for the summer, means even more emphasis will be placed on fall practices.

The summer months give programs some leeway and flexibility as far as trying out new line-ups and strategies, but with restrictions placed on those practice sessions teams will have to utilize fall workouts effectively to prepare for the fast approaching season.

“There’s going to be a sense of urgency there because we’re behind. Every practice is important to begin with and now it’s even more important because you’re behind the eight ball,” Stephens said.

Picayune Boys Basketball

Head Coach Eric Vianney and his athletes are in the same boat as Stephens and other basketball programs around the state.

The team is coming off a season that saw it place second in the district and make a playoff appearance.

Picayune lost in the first round of the playoffs by a mere six points to a Laurel team that advanced all the way to the third round of games, and did so with a squad that only had four seniors. It’s a youthful team that would’ve benefitted greatly from the competitive reps typically held over the summer. Vianney said the loss of those opportunities means the improvement of each player’s skills will be key if the team is to continue making progress this upcoming season.

“We understand that we’re not going to win any games in the summer, so we just have to make sure we improve. Hopefully we continue to take that step forward,” Vianney said.

Not only does Vianney want his players to improve mechanically and with their skills, but also with their knowledge of the game.

Understanding certain situations and how to properly react is of incredible importance in a fast paced game like basketball.

While the loss of summer games stings, Vianney said it’ll be a good opportunity for his athletes to become better students of the game.

“We have to adjust to the situation and teach. There’s a lot of stuff our players have to learn and we have to do a better job of giving them what they need,” Vianney said.