Friday, April 17, 2020

Jumping through hoops

Despite being one thousand miles apart, UIS Women’s Basketball Coach Casey Thousand is running drills with her team and having weekly meetings.

“Our biggest challenge is not having a post season,” she said. "We are still a new staff needing to tweak what we’re doing and how. Normally we would be in the gym doing workouts and could demonstrate in-person what we wanted them to work on to prepare for next year. Not being on the court with our team is hard.”

Spring is also when basketball recruits, who are current high school juniors, are invited to campus.

“It’s really weird right now, figuring out how we can get our offers to these kids without showing them campus. We don’t like to offer scholarships until they come to campus. We like to get to know the whole family and this time is very different because it’s all over the phone,” she said.

Thousand jokes that her phone is usually dead by noon because of so many calls she is on with recruits, coaches and her own players.

Thousand, her coaching staff and team connect on Zoom at least once a week and she monitors their workouts on a new app that all UIS athletes are using to track their progress.

“They are bored. They miss campus. They miss being around each other. We do a lot of texting and calling. When we Zoom, they are usually pretty talkative and happy to see one another,” she said.

Thousand considers herself lucky that they were able to finish their season. But she is disappointed her seniors won’t get a proper send-off.

“It’s hard, I talk to them a lot about resumes and being alumni and make sure they know we want to stay in contact with them,” she said.

Thousand feels for the spring sport athletes, who are missing their entire season.

She says one positive thing that has come out of the extreme circumstances is a connectedness between basketball coaches around the country. During the NCAA Final Four, college coaches typically connect in conferences and learn from speakers, but this year, with the cancellation of the NCAA tournament, those conferences didn’t happen.

“They didn’t happen in person, but they did happen online,” said Thousand. The NCAA moved the conference virtual. We connected on Zoom. People are just figuring out how to do it differently and stay connected. We are able to learn as a staff to make our team better.” Thousand considers the virtual platform better, as D1, D2 and D3 coaches are in regular contact with one another, instead of just for one weekend.

As for the summer, it’s still to be determined. Thousand and her staff would normally spend the summer visiting potential recruits playing AAU ball. “AAU tournaments typically happen April, May, June and July,” she said. “The April tournaments have been cancelled, but players are getting creative, they’re utilizing their home courts.
We’re all learning from this.”

“We cannot wait to get everyone back together," she said.

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