YSU seeks routine amid COVID chaos

YOUNGSTOWN — College basketball coaches, their players and supporting staff are creatures of habit.

Schedules are followed. Itineraries are met.

Practices. Weight lifting. Classes. Meals. One-on-one meetings with position coaches. Those are just some of the on-campus activities student athletes have on a daily basis.

The laundry list of activities on road trips with hotels, meals, video sessions, practices and games keep each member of the team on task.

A COVID-19 stoppage put a screeching halt to a sense of normalcy, as much as you can achieve these days.

One positive COVID-19 result plus contact tracing could be disastrous for collegiate teams that rely on constants. Pausing team activities follow. No practices, games or in-person contact for what could be a two-week hiatus or more.

The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team had a total 21 days in two different stoppages as others started playing the season beginning Nov. 25.

YSU hosts Point Park on Wednesday at 7 p.m., in the team’s opener — in an attempt to get a semblance of a non-conference season (three other games) before starting Horizon League play Dec. 19 in Northern Kentucky.

The Penguins, coming off a program-changing 18-15 season, had elevated expectations heading into this season. Junior point guard Darius Quisenberry, a first-team preseason Horizon League selection, is touted as one of the best mid-major guards in the country. Senior forward Naz Bohannon could have a breakout season, a player who has the ability to average double figures in points and rebounds every game.

Senior Garrett Covington is arguably the best defender in the Horizon League. Senior Michael Akuchie, who has spent countless hours in the gym following games to hone his skills, had a solid campaign last season.

The incoming freshmen class is starting to get themselves acclimated to the YSU system. The others are ready to contribute one again to the greater good of the Penguins program.

Teams are battling a virus as much as they are preparing for the opposition.

“I don’t know if the normal fan realizes what goes into this,” YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “This has been an 8 or 9-month process dealing with this virus. In athletics, it’s much, much different. There’s constant testing that goes into it. You have to be very, very disciplined right now if you want to have a season.”

YSU, after being in quarantine for more than two weeks, has to get its players accustomed to the regimen of practice and weight lifting to build up the team’s endurance.

The NCAA has allotted each winter sport athlete an extra year eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which leads some to believe the 2020-21 season is a lost season.

“I actually disagree with that,” Calhoun said. “I think it’s going to be one of the most remarkable seasons ever because the team that wins the national championship, the team that wins the Horizon League Championship, the discipline and execution on and off the court that you have to have right now is unmatched. We’ve never had to do stuff that we’re doing.”

Following a routine has never been more imperative for college basketball teams.


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