Hoops underway, sort of

Only Elmwood teams opened basketball practice Monday

Weekly Post Staff Writer

High school basketball practice started Monday at some Illinois schools. Sort of.

“I guess you could call it that,” said Gregg Meyers, Elmwood girls coach. “It seemed more like a skills camp with no scrimmaging.”

Elmwood was the only local school that hit the gym Monday, which was the opening date mandated months ago by the Illinois High School Association – before COVID-19 cases began to soar and led to new sports guidelines. Since then, in addition to delaying the start of games, the Illinois Department of Public Health offered guidance calling for “no-contact practices and trainings.”

In other words, skills camps with masks. Even that is more than many programs are willing to attempt right now. Of 546 schools that responded to an IHSA survey, nearly 300 said they did not plan to start on Nov. 16 while another 212 were unsure of their status.

Those numbers are comparable to the local scene, where Farmington and Brimfield are on hold until those schools return to in-school learning. Williamsfield has suspended play until the Illinois Department of Public Health says it is OK. And Princeville’s boys program had planned to hold open gyms prior to Tuesday, while the girls are not planning any practices.

“We are just conducting open gyms two times a week until we get further guidance from the IDPH and the IHSA,” said Jeff Kratzer, Princeville’s boys coach and athletic director. Similarly, the Lincoln Trail Conference has urged its members to wait for more information.

The IHSA announced last week that it would provide “more direction on basketball practice and games” after a board meeting to be held today (Nov. 19). While representatives from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office and the Illinois Department of Public Health were invited to attend the meeting, they announced Tuesday they would not be there as the entire state has been moved to stricter Tier 3 mitigations. That would seem to leave the IHSA little choice but to delay the start of sports seasons.

“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,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said Tuesday evening in a release. “(We) continue plotting out potential paths for IHSA sport and activity participation through the remainder of the school year.”

This time around it appears the IHSA will follows the IDPH/Pritzker guidelines, unlike a few weeks ago when IHSA rejected moving basketball into the category of highrisk sports. That was a major factor in the decision by Brimfield guard Jakoby McKown to transfer to Bellevue East High School in Nebraska. McKown was in the mix to start for Brimfield,but said he wanted to be sure he could play