WHITE PLAINS – Last year, Stepinac got used to having some of the biggest names in college basketball by his side – Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Kentucky’s John Calipari, Villanova’s Jay Wright and Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing.
This year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, varsity coaches were unable to personally attend open gyms and workouts, so Crusaders head coach Pat Massaroni gave them a live preview of the training of his team.
Although Stepinac’s sidelines were empty this time around, there were around 100 college programs tuned in practically Saturday, ranging from top-tier Division I teams to local Division III schools nearby.
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“Together with our administration, our sports department and the staff here, we are talking about giving our guys and our student-athletes the opportunity to make themselves known,” Massaroni said. “Obviously, as we continue to go through this pandemic and things are closed, our student-athletes are affected. Part of the reason they attend Stepinac is for this exhibition both locally and nationally, and we wanted to put together something today to give them exposure both locally and nationally to over 100 varsity coaches across the country. That was the game plan. “
Upon arrival, players and coaches had their temperatures taken and were screened for any potential symptoms of COVID-19. Once cleared, they stepped onto the pitch for warm-ups, followed by individual and small-group drills, before ending the day with a series of intrasquad scrums.
According to the rules of the Catholic High School Athletic Association, players were required to wear a face mask unless they were unable to tolerate it during physical activity. In this case, they could be deleted. However, coaches and players seated for a break were required to wear masks on the sidelines.
Regardless of the new measures, the Crusaders were just thrilled to have their first team training. After the gymnasium was converted into a temporary cafeteria and a socially distant classroom with the start of the 2020-2021 school year, they were happy to see it restored to its purpose: basketball.
“It was great to be back at Stepinac and come back with the team,” said Crusaders junior goaltender Samuel Gibbs. “Great to be back in competition, we did it. We had a really good group today just to compete, and it was a lot of fun.”
The Crusaders were grateful to have recruiting exposure during the pandemic, especially the subclasses and newcomers looking to make a good first impression on their teammates and potential future coaches.
“You don’t know how important it was for everyone,” said Johnuel “Boogie” Fland, a Stepinac freshman who already has Division I offerings from Bryant, Rider, Siena and LIU. “And for me, myself, it helped a lot. The people watching us practice and stuff like that helped a lot.”
Even those who have already established their college plans, like Malcolm Chimezie at Boston University, have enjoyed the opportunity to hit the pitch and provide guidance to young players who might not be used to coaches watching everyone. of their movements. Chimezie feels that the empty sidelines and virtual setting have helped soothe some of their nerves.
“Some guys were really intimidated by this. I know I was when I was in first year and second year,” Chimezie said, of working in front of college coaches in person. “Stepinac has a tradition of using coaches, so the more they get used to it the better.”
After completing their first team practice of the school year, the Crusaders look to the CHSAA’s November 28 basketball start date, which has been postponed to November 7.
Although they are still waiting for more information on the season, they cannot wait.
“We will be waiting for more guidance from our league and the state,” Massaroni said. “Our league has done a great job of communicating what’s going on. The next step is for our guys to keep improving and we’re counting down the days until November 28th.”
Follow Eugene Rapay on Twitter at @ erapay5.