WORTHINGTON -- High school sports last week received a very public shutdown, but sports is still kicking in the community college ranks and that’s why the Minnesota West Bluejays men’s basketball team continued practicing on Thursday.
Coronavirus guidelines are being carefully followed as the team prepares for a season-opener that hasn’t yet been scheduled. Not all the Jays players are in town now, but head coach Taylor Lupton expects a full squad ready to go by Nov. 30.
One of his players, 6-3 sophomore Jacquez Stoudemire, averaged around 8 points and 9 rebounds per game last year, and he’s looking forward to becoming more of a leader in his second year.
“It was a little bit scary last year, first year in college,” said the Montgomery, Ala., product. “Not now. Lead by example. I’m going to talk more. I’m going to be a leader. Gonna be there for my team.”
Practices in November, Stoudemire said, have been intense. But there is a limit with what the players can do with their drills.
“Still looking good. It should be a good year, still,” he interjected.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s Nov. 18 announcement that youth and high school sports would need to do a “pause” as COVID-19 cases spike around the state, didn’t include the college ranks. But guidelines that West athletes face, going forward, are strict. One rule states that athletes must be tested for the virus three times per week -- even during weeks when there is no competition and practice only.
The Bluejays, however, and the Lady Jays who have also been practicing with their fingers crossed, are simply glad their season is still viable.
“This COVID stuff is really crazy this year. We’re making it work, though,” said Stoudemire. “I kind of was scared that we probably weren’t even going to have a season this year. I really wanted to play.”
Lupton has tried to roll with the punches.
“With everything that’s gone on, I haven’t been too worried about it. We’re going to just follow any guidelines. The guys understand how serious it is. We’re not going to stress over everything that we don’t have control over.”
The offseason was stressful enough. Stoudemire said he considered leaving Minnesota West. He talked with his family. But he decided to stay because, he said, of Coach Lupton, the West environment which he enjoys, and the “new guys” coming in.
“I wanted to be there for them and my coach. It’s all about loyalty. We got some nice players coming in. It’s gonna be good,” he said.