High school basketball season was supposed to tip off at the end of January with practices set to begin on the 11th.
But there’s been another delay to the winter sports season.
Gov. Jim Justice announced Wednesday during his coronavirus briefing that winter sports practices have been pushed back to March 1. Originally, most sports had been scheduled to begin practice on Nov. 16, but shortly before that date, they were pushed back to Jan. 11 as COVID-19 numbers increased around the state.
“I hate this like crazy,’’ Justice said, “but we’re going to have to move our winter sports to March 1, so that’ll be the start-up date. With sports, you’ve got all kinds of interaction that causes us all kinds of problems.’’
The move affects boys and girls high school basketball, wrestling and swimming in West Virginia. Obviously, state tournament dates in those sports, which were revised by the Secondary School Activities Commission in November, will have to be moved again. Boys basketball (April 6-10 under the first revised timeline) is scheduled as the final winter sport to conclude.
The news of the delay was a crushing blow to student-athletes and coaches.
“With everything that’s been happening around us I thought that we would be able to start. I really did,” Man High School boys’ basketball coach TJ Blevins said. “But now that it’s been pushed off two more months is absolutely crazy.”
Former Chapmanville Regional High School and current University of Rio Grande freshman basketball standout Andrew Shull said in a Tweet said it’s unfair.
Hate this for the high school kids back home,” Shull said. “Totally unfair. Just hoping and praying kids still get the chance to play at the next level.”
Poca High School All-State standout Isaac McKneely was to the point in his Tweet.
“I’m done,” he said.
“That’s not a good sign when the best player in the state is Tweeting out that,” Logan coach Zach Green said.
Blevins said he still thinks there will be a basketball season but a shortened one.
“I do,” he said. “We still have plenty of time in the school year to play. Just shooting from the hip and reading some of the rumors, it’s possible that we will have a 12-game season in the month of march and get our sectional and regionals done by the end of March then roll into the state tournament in April. So you are not really missing a beat from the former January 11 start but you’ll miss nine or 10 games. Some are saying we might be able to begin practices at the end of February but that’s not definite. You have to get 14 practices in but maybe they will shorten that to seven. You’d have to play three games in a week.”
While West Virginia is delaying its winter sports season, neighboring Ohio has already tipped off its basketball season and already been playing games.
Kentucky started up its basketball and winter sports practices more than two weeks ago.
Pennsylvania announced last week, with the blessing of Gov. Wolf that its ban on high school sports would not be extended, meaning teams were allowed to begin practices on Jan. 4.
“You look on TV and West Virginia is playing. Marshall is playing. The fans are reduced right now at Marshall,” Blevins said. “These guys are traveling. The WVU team went to Memphis for the Liberty Bowl. They are on planes and they are going to be around people. You don’t see a whole lot of cases with high school athletes if any. The state of Florida is back to five days a week in school and wide open sports everywhere. If there is a case they take care of it. Kentucky has been practicing for its high school sports and games are set to begin this week. Pennsylvania is back. We are the outlier and I just don’t understand it.”