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Basketball: Masks won’t be the only oddity for local teams

Hoops regular season reduced, as are playoff brackets

Daily Camera file photo
Jenna Johnson of Longmont, right, drives past Northridge guard Seneya Martinez in their Northern League game on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 at Northridge High School.
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Your standard timeout, draw-up-the-next-play scenario is going to be a little more awkward for high school basketball teams this season.

New COVID-19 rules demand players and coaches stay six feet apart on the sidelines, even during timeouts.

Meaning, with expected no fans allowed in the stands, coaches talking strategy must somehow get their message across loud enough for their players to hear but convey it lowkey enough that their opponents can’t overhear.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Mead girls basketball coach JR Sagner laughed. “Um, that part of it — we’ll see.”

Well, time to get creative because this high school basketball season will be unlike any other.

Earlier this week, the Colorado High School Activities Association announced some of the new rules and regulations regarding the state’s upcoming basketball campaigns. The biggest, and certainly most controversial, being CHSAA’s requirement that players will have to wear masks on the court while competing.

Critics have pointed out that a number of states have allowed high school basketball to play without masks. Even college basketball in the state doesn’t require it — although it should be noted that those programs are set up for more frequent testing.

Bottom line: “It is what it is,” Longmont girls coach Wade Kingsbury said.

“It’s something we can’t control and it’s the option we’ve been given and we got to roll with it. There’s a lot of other states that are doing it and obviously some that aren’t, but we’ll roll with what we got.”

Kingsbury said he’ll give his players the option on what type of mask they’ll wear as long as it adheres to state requirements.

What is more comfortable while shooting a basketball: A surgical mask or neck gaiter?

Another mask question: Will masks cause more fatigue for players on the court? And in turn, how does that affect playing time and rotations?

“I think fatigue will play a part,” Sagner said. “Ultimately we’ll practice with them and get used to them as much as we can. Knowing rotations and stuff, it’s hard to tell until we get into the swing of things. And I think it’ll affect some kids more than others.”

But that’s the cockeyed, weird part of playing during a pandemic. The coaches at Longmont and Mead were more eager to talk about how excited their players were to just play this winter.

For most programs around the state, they’ll need to shed a bit of rust when practice officially begins Jan. 18.

Local teams haven’t been able to meet for offseason workouts since late November when nearby counties went to level red and limited nearly all indoor activity. And while some players found ways of getting to a hoop, and many programs have virtually connected with players at least in some facet since then, none of it replicates in-person workouts.

All teams will have to get on the same page quickly with games scheduled to begin as soon as Jan. 25.

“It’s the name of the game this year and really like any other time, you have to play the hand you were dealt,” Kingsbury said. “We are rolling with the punches.”

Other changes include a condensed playoff field in every classification. Class 1A-3A will shrink from 32 teams to 24. Class 4A and 5A will go from 48 to 32.