PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — When does the first day of the high school basketball season not feel like the opening day of the season?
High school basketball practice officially started Monday with many schools not taking the floor. The state of Illinois and Illinois High School Association haven’t agreed on when or if their should be a season as the pandemic wears on.
“Our coaches always tell us to stay positive, we try and stay positive,” said Peoria High School junior Nathan Moore. “But, sometimes in the back of your mind you think, ‘what if we don’t play?’ What else are you going to do after this if we don’t play?”
Peoria High didn’t practice Monday. The Lions are waiting to see what happens when the IHSA board of directors meets Thursday.
The IHSA has invited representatives of the Illinois Department of Public Health and Governor’s office to attend the meeting. Schools are hoping to have clarity on a season then.
“We’re going into practice with the idea that we’re going to work our butts off. If we have a season, we’ll be ready for it,” said Tremont senior Logan Morr. “If we don’t have a season, then we had a blast practicing, having fun playing basketball.”
In late October, the IDPH elevated youth basketball to “high risk” status, meaning no games, scrimmages or contact practices can be conducted. Governor JB Pritzker said he wants to see all winter sports moved the the spring.
A day after the IDPH announcement, the IHSA board met and voted in favor of starting the basketball season on time with practice Nov. 16 and games Nov. 30. The IHSA cited its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee believing basketball can be played safely with mitigations, such as players, coaches and officials wearing masks for games.
The IHSA is allowing basketball teams to practice under IDPH guidelines for high risk sports and left the decision to play with local school districts. Many practices Monday resembled open gyms with a lot of shooting and dribbling drills.
“It’s been a lot of up and downs, can we play, can we not play? Can we contact, can we not contact?,” Morton senior Cailyn Cowley said Monday at practice. “I’m just happy to be here, whether or not we can contact. Just to get here, put our masks on and get some time in the gym.”
With COVID numbers on the rise in Illinois it looks unlikely a high school basketball season can start anytime soon. The IHSA sent surveys to its 813 members schools asking them when they’d want to play.
The IHSA board revealed last week that among the 546 schools who responded to the survey, nearly 300 schools did not plan to start basketball in November and another 212 schools remained unsure of their status.
“It’s definitely hard to stay positive but we are trying our best,” said Eureka senor Erica Mangold. “We’re doing our best in practice, no matter what the season looks like.”