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Bounce in their steps

NCAA basketball teams can head back to the gym on July 20

Correspondent file photo / Robert Hayes YSU’s Mary Dunn, left, looks to pass while being guarded by a Robert Morris player last season in Moon Township, Pa.

The Youngstown State men’s basketball team left the court March 5 after a Horizon League semifinal loss in Chicago. The Penguins were off the court for a couple of weeks, expected to come back around mid-March for the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

COVID-19 pandemic. No live action, practices or games. Social distancing, video chats and texts with coaches and teammates. Workouts from home. Most gyms were closed for the better part of two months, only to reopen the last couple of weeks.

YSU had its best record since the 2012-13 season (18-15), but couldn’t build upon that for the 2020-21 campaign like they would most offseasons because of the coronavirus outbreak.

That changed Thursday as Youngstown State University’s men’s and women’s basketball teams both heard the good news on their respective video chats.

The NCAA Division I council approved beginning July 20 required summer athletic activities may begin.

Staff file photo / John Vargo YSU men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun talks to his team during an off-season workout last summer. All NCAA men’s and women’s basketball teams can resume these workouts on July 20.

This means up to four hours in the gym and four hours of strength and conditioning each week for all NCAA basketball programs. YSU players then have about a week off before school and return for fall semester on Aug. 17.

YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun is excited to see his team back together as one unified group.

“They guys go from having their season ended, to the coronavirus, to the racial injustice, to police brutality,” Calhoun said. “I’m really excited for them to get around one another to get around each other — players, coaches and managers. We’re just ecstatic to build off of what we’re able to accomplish last year. It’s a big excitement for the players and coaches to come back on the 20th.”

YSU coach John Barnes got the same news to his team on Thursday during a web chat.

He said the players are excited to get some work in together, even if it is a portion of the summer.

The Penguins women’s team went 13-17 last season, but has its returning senior, 6-foot-3 forward and 2019 first-team Horizon League player Mary Dunn returning. She played four games last season before tearing her meniscus, averaging 17 points per contest.

The YSU would’ve started off-season workouts in late March if it weren’t for the coronavirus and had full-team workouts starting before the end of June.

“We discussed when they’re going to come back, what it’s going to look like as far as we know right now,” Barnes said. “Obviously things can change in a heartbeat. We’re pretty excited.”

YSU men’s leading scorer, returning junior 6-1 guard Darius Quisenberry, who averaged 16.6 points and 4.2 assists per game last season, declared for the NBA Draft. He has until early August or 10 days after the final combine to withdraw his name. Quisenberry scored in double figures in 15 of the last 17 YSU games, including a career-high 41 against Wright State.

“We’ve had a lot of good conversations,” Calhoun said. “He’s had four, five Zoom calls with NBA teams. I think he’ll have a decision in the next couple of weeks. We’re going to support whatever he decides to do, not only himself, but with the guidance of his family. We’re certainly going to support him.”

There are voluntary workouts available to those men’s and women’s players on campus, which started earlier this month.

The council is considering adding more activities between July 1-19.

Preseason practices can start 42 days before the school’s first regular-season game. YSU has not announced its schedules because of the late addition of Robert Morris to the Horizon League schedule on Monday.

Barnes said women’s strength and conditioning coach Jake Tuura has sent out workouts to all newcomers and returners during this down time.

“They should all be doing them,” Barnes said. “We’re going to find out who has been doing them and who hasn’t been doing them when they get back.

“We have a good group and I’m sure they’ve been working hard.”

Coaches haven’t been out recruiting at AAU Tournaments or doing on-campus or at-home visits. It’s been a weird time for everyone during this pandemic.

July 20 is bring some kind of normalcy back to the YSU basketball teams.

“It’s been so long,” Barnes said. “We’re excited. I didn’t know if this was ever going to come.”

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