Hoops teams forge ahead toward uncertain future

Some local teams practicing ahead of another IHSA meeting

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With another special meeting of the IHSA board looming on Thursday, there are a few local basketball programs that have decided to get a jump on whatever kind of basketball season may happen and sneak in a few days worth of practice.

They figure they might as well, because who knows when they may get on the court again.

Woodland boys basketball coach Connor Kaminke will be conducting non-contact workouts in the Warrior Dome under the Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines at least a few days this week. He is focusing on skills development and some conditioning in those workout, noting that “whether we get to play basketball or not, we’re going to try and become better basketball players in the meantime.”

Those workouts, he said, appear to have given his athletes a positive mental boost just when they needed one so badly.

“The 20 days we had in September and October were just great,” the fourth-year coach said. “It was great to be back in the gym, seeing the guys’ faces. You could tell it was good for their mental health just being back together and doing something. Whether this process ends up positive or negative, we want to endure it together.

“I think I kind of speak for all coaches when I say that I hope we can play, but if we can’t, give us some direction so we know how to prepare moving forward … Obviously, we’re hoping for the best, but we’re getting to the point where we need to have something set in stone so we can make decisions and go from there. It’s just so difficult to prepare with no end in sight. We want to have something to work for, to know what that is and move forward.”

In Granville, Putnam County girls coach Jared Sale is likewise trying to bolster the mental well-being of his players during what may turn out to be just a few days of drills and fundamentals. Then, whenever the IHSA says to play, his club will be ready for whatever sport they choose to play.

“The message that I’ve tried to share with the kids is that we have to stay as positive as possible and stay as ready as we can,” Sale said. “I feel like there will be a schedule change coming Thursday, whether (the IHSA) moves it to January or to the spring. I’m not sure how many schools in our district are even going to be playing, but we want to be as ready as we can be.”

Sale is also mindful of the possible conflict with other sports already moved to the IHSA’s spring season. He doesn’t want his players going in flat-footed, whatever sport they decide to play.

“An issue for many of the local schools in the area, the smaller schools,” he explained, “is if they move it to the spring, we’ll have so many girls who want to play volleyball and basketball that we have to get the basketball work in now so that when its a wacky schedule in the spring, we’ll have a good base in. We won’t be starting from scratch when we do have a season to work for … It’s still a wait-and-see type deal, kind of the same way its been since the jump. We’re trying to do the best we can to get practice plans out there to keep the kids engaged, to continue to progress and hopefully be ready to go if something does change.”

Just in case the hoops season is moved to the spring, the local coaches are working out plans for their charges to take home and work on their game in their spare time, in the driveways, garages, tracks and running areas they have access to for solo workouts.

According to Seneca girls basketball coach Ted O’Boyle, the hoops programs received permission from the high school board to go ahead with practices for now. The boys are slated to practice Tuesday and Friday and the girls Monday and Thursday, utilizing the two gyms available — one for shooting and the other for ball handling and conditioning — with the opposite gender hitting the weightroom on their out-of-gym days.

“We’ve told the girls to go out and get some sprints in to maintain their conditioning whenever they’re not in the gym or weight room and they’ve been doing a pretty good job of it. We’re not in great shape, but it’s not terrible,” said O’Boyle. “We’re doing the best with what we’re able to do … There was obviously a little bit of concern with all the unknown. Maybe we’ll know more after that (IHSA) meeting on Thursday.”