COVID-19 guidelines’ effect on men’s basketball practices

Players staying hopeful, adapting to new changes at practice

Mesaged Abakar, Staff Reporter

Shaw Anderson plays two on two with Kelton Samore on their section of the court. (Jacky Chen)

Seattle Pacific University men’s basketball, like other teams on campus, are having to experience practices in new ways, in order to keep the players and the campus safe from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Practicing with various restrictions can be challenging. Sophomore Zack Paulsen shared his opinion on keeping a positive mindset at practice with guidelines.

“I was definitely hoping that we were going to get to play and practice. It’s been going well so far; it’s just kind of keeping that hopeful mentality with the realization that you never really know what’s going to happen,” said Paulsen.

The athletes are tested for COVID-19 more than once throughout each week of practice to limit any possible spread of the virus to others.

“Before the season started, everybody got tested. Over the last month and a half, we have been doing random tests; each person in a pod will randomly be tested. If someone is having any symptoms such as sore throat or cough, he and everybody he’s been in contact with will be tested.” said senior Mehdi El Mardi. “We came in knowing that there’s going to be a lot of uncertainty, but so far, we have been pretty consistent and cautious.”

Graduate student, from Morocco, Mehdi El Mardi is doing ball bounce lay up drills before his 1 on 1 practice match up with skill position teammates. (back left, Filip Fullerton. Back right, Jake Medjo). (Jacky Chen)

There are a total of 16 players on the team. The players are split up into smaller groups while still maintaining other restrictions.

“It is broken up by position. For example, the power forward and the center are in one pod, the small forwards are another pod, and the guards and the shooting guards are in a pod,” said El Mardi.

“We have multiple hoops, so we’ll go four pods at four different hoops, and we stay on our side,” said Paulsen. “We wouldn’t get as much versatility out of it if we were to mix everybody up.”

Because multiple sports use Royal Brougham to practice, each sport has a set time to use the gym. Men’s basketball is the first team on the court.

“We have to go to practice at six and seven in the morning, and there has to be a two-hour ventilation before the next team goes,” said Paulsen. “I don’t mind getting up early. I enjoy early practices because it makes my sleep schedule good and makes me go to bed early.”

“I’d rather practice at six in the morning than not practice,” said El Mardi.

The new guidelines have affected all of the players, but they took an immense toll on the freshmen, mainly because of smaller pods and limited interactions.

“I think in terms of basketball, it could definitely be harder for freshmen. Our senior and junior leaders have been really good with incorporating everybody and making everybody feel involved,” said Paulsen. “We have good leadership throughout the team that it won’t be as big of an issue when we get to practice together because of our team chemistry.”

Second year Shaw Anderseon, Washington Class 3A State Player of the Year in 2019, warms up with the two ball dribble drill. Sharif Khan in the back trails 6 feet behind him as he does the same warm up. (Jacky Chen)

Traditions have been tough to maintain from past years, but the team is trying their utmost to ensure that they stay connected with everyone else. Every year, the team travels to Yakima, Washington to spend up to five days doing team activities together. This year however, the way the team bonds will look different. On Saturday, Nov. 14, the seniors will spend time sharing their experiences with underclassmen, all in an effort to build team comradery before the season starts.

“As of right now, the season is supposed to start in January but only with conference games, then the conference tournaments and then hopefully the regional tournaments,” said El Mardi.

While others will be at home for winter break, players will be in the gym preparing for their upcoming season.

“We probably are going to try to take advantage as much as we can of the winter break since we don’t have classes to get more time on the court and get better,” said El Mardi.

Regarding the COVID-19 restrictions, players are grateful they can still constructively practice with these limitations.

“Coaches have handled everything extremely well. I think they have put everybody in the best position that is best for them to grow and continue to grow,” said Paulsen. “I don’t think there’s anything else they can do under the restrictions they were given to make it better.”