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Poplarville basketball practicing without several players

The gym at Poplarville High School would usually be filled by the Hornets’ boys basketball team during the offseason, but because of COVID-19 and athletes participating in other sports, this year’s offseason has been unusual.

The team lost out on the ability to practice or play in competitive games over the spring and summer because of the pandemic and restrictions that came along with it.

On top of those obstacles, the basketball squad is missing several players that are currently competing with the school’s football team.

Head Coach Run Bowen said there are 10 players who take part in daily practices, but only three, maybe four of those players, will see varsity action this season.

Still, that hasn’t prevented the team from getting to work this fall as the players prepare for the start of the season.

A different offensive system is being implemented, so that’s been the focus for Bowen and his players.

“We started installing a new offense this year. We’ve been doing a lot of breakdown drills for that offense and trying to develop the skills to go with that offense. There’s been a lot of individual work and a lot of fundamentals. We’ve been more fundamental heavy in practices than we have ever been,” Bowen said.

The change up in offensive systems occurred because of the program’s few limitations.

Because such a large portion of the team misses out on the pre-season practices and early season games, it’s hard to have a complex system in place.

Bowen made the change to work with the athletes on the team, and with the constraints of the season’s timing.

“We were trying to play a more up tempo style with a full court press, and it wasn’t effective because you have to spend so much time working on that stuff. When you don’t have guys (in the gym) to work on it, you can’t be as good at it. This year we’re going to run a more controlled offense, grind it out (style),” Bowen said.

Bowen said a couple of the players working with him every day in the gym are going to be key for the Hornets when the season starts.

The hope is the athletes will develop as leaders that’ll take charge and guide the team once it’s at full strength.

“We’re going to ride or die with these guys. Both (players) work hard and have a desire to win, to do what it takes to win. Hopefully other guys will pick up on those two’s mentality,” Bowen said.

Not having a full squad to start the season is rough, but Bowen said there are some advantages the Hornets will have over other schools, especially larger ones.

Chemistry on the court is a big part of any basketball team’s success. Bowen said that culture will already be in place when the season begins because of the atmosphere his athletes work in.

“Schools that have a lot of athletes are not going to be as affected by the lack of time with players (before the season starts), but an advantage for us is that this such a tight knit community. They’ve grown up together, so the team chemistry and bond is already there,” Bowen said.

The team’s first game of the season will be Nov. 10, at home, against the East Central Hornets.