MCLEAN, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Brandon Heyen knows the basketball season is in jeopardy so the Bloomington-based basketball skills coach had an idea.
Organize a 3-on-3 basketball league for high school players while they wait to hear when or if they’ll have a season.
“I offered it up for free and see how many teams we could get,” Heyen said. “We have 35 teams right now.”
For now that will be the limit for the friendly tournament which started Nov. 11. It will end Friday when the state moves into Tier 3 COVID protocol and Heyen loses the ability to use park district gymnasium in McLean where he’s hosted the league.
High school teammates were playing on some teams and friends from rival high schools were playing together on others. They just wanted something competitive while they await word on their season
“For high school, we are in non-contact (practices). We only go for about an hour. It’s drills,” said Pekin senior Taylor Goss. “We come here and it’s like getting into sharp and playing an actual game.”
Heyen was videotaping games and posting them on YouTube so parents of the players could watch.
“It’s important we get this in while we can,” said Normal Community Karleigh Creasey. ” We’re going to be really upset when our season gets put on hold. It’s special to us.”
The Illinois High School Association announced a pause in the winter sports season Tuesday night.
“We remain optimistic that these new mitigations, coupled with the emergence of a vaccine, will aid in creating participation opportunities in the New Year for IHSA student-athletes in winter, spring, and summer sports,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson.
The IHSA board of directors will still meet Thursday to determine “potential paths for IHSA sport and activity participation through the remainder of the school year.”
Heyen says he saw this coming. He said had high school players from all over central Illinois driving to his tournament because they don’t know if they’ll play competitive basketball this school year due to the pandemic.
“Everybody will miss it in the winter,” Heyen said of a basketball season. “I just want to give kids a chance to play before everything gets ugly.”
Heyen doesn’t know if he’ll resume the league if state restrictions ease and he can get back into the gym with players in large numbers. But many of those players say they’ll return if they are allowed to.
“I’ve been driving two hours to play basketball,” said Normal West junior Megan Williams. “If we don’t have a season, I would drive (to play) anywhere.”