That’s the date that the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Keene State College are hoping to start competing.
“The actual schedule is likely to start in the middle of January,” said Ryan Cain, head coach of the men’s team. “The January 16 date has been kicked around. One of the proposals right now within our league is a single round robin. So you play everybody in our conference one time for eight regular season games. [We’re] working on finalizing what the conference tournament would look like, and then there’s been a proposal about selection for the NCAA tournament taking place that first week of March… [however] nothing’s been finalized.”
As for the women’s side of hoops here at Keene, the talks have been similar.
“We’ll potentially play games [in the] second semester.” said Kevin Justice, an assistant coach for the women’s basketball team. “We’re not scheduling anybody who doesn’t follow a protocol who keeps our students safe.”
There’s also a lot of talk about potentially keeping the year of eligibility for athletes. Scheduling this year will be tricky because teams will need to play about half of the games they usually play, and that includes conference playoffs and the NCAA tournament.
“We’re trying to not have them have to make that decision,” noted Justice, when asked about if the scheduling could fall in such a way where athletes would have to choose to finish the season. The hope is to stay under the minimum amount of games for a year of eligibility to be used.
For both teams, integrating the first-years onto the team has surprisingly exceeded expectations.
“Usually when pick-up starts… it takes [the first-years] a couple sessions to fit in,” said Jordyn Burke, a senior captain for the women’s team. “But our freshmen are really talented so they mesh well with our style of gameplay.”
Tyler Dill, a first-year transfer student on the men’s team, has also been received well at Keene State and around the basketball team.
“I made a lot of new friends, getting to meet a lot of new guys. I wasn’t really familiar with any of them besides [sophomore forward] Jeff [Hunter],” said Dill. ”It was neat to meet people that I didn’t know and start playing with them.”
Dill got regular playing time for a good portion of his first season last year at New England College (NEC) and was a three time league all star in high school.
“The previous teammates have been so helpful of the process of getting a good feel of things around here,” said George Nasr, another first-year on the men’s team. “It’s a good environment here.”
In addition to a shorter schedule, practices are looking a lot different so far.
“Now we’re at the point where we’re in phase one. Phase one is groups of 10 or less,” said Cain. “There’s even some high-risk players for different pre-existing conditions that would require them to be in a separate group that would ease them in at a slower rate than everyone else.”
The teams have two groups, with players staying six-feet apart as much as possible. The higher risk players are to stay 15-feet from other players, and coaches are to stay 10-feet apart.
Despite everything looking a little different, coaches and players, including returning starter Jeff Hunter, is very optimistic about the season.
“I think we’re going to be really good this year,” said Hunter. “You can just tell from the difference between this year and last year; that just in the first practice the energy level was on a completely different level. Last year we came into practice, like yeah, we want to be here but it wasn’t really the same. Last night, when we got into practice, the gym was really loud the entire time. I think we’re going to be really good and have a great season this year.”
Ethan Winer can be contacted at: