Editor’s note: This is the second part of a multi-part story about how Garland County basketball teams are progressing after the mandated break due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Without the ability to conduct full-team practices, coaches are aiming to hone individual players’ strengths as smaller groups of players train and improve certain aspects of their overall game.
For Lake Hamilton head boys coach Scotty Pennington, starting the season off on the right foot will be impacted greatly by the amount of time spent in full-court practices where players will learn their new roles.
“We’re doing individual workouts with the kids and bringing them in six at a time,” Pennington said. “Everybody has their own goal and their own ball. We’re following all the guidelines that we’ve been told to follow with the masks and spraying the balls down in between each session. It’s been a negative thing in the fact that there’s no scrimmage and no team camp games, but it’s been a positive in a way because with these workouts, you can really individualize each kid’s workout to
improve their personal game.”
Pennington said that he has seen an 83% attendance rate for the non-required practices, giving him the chance to hone players skills as the team looks to replace seniors Malik Brewer, Adjani Winston and Alex Milstead.
“We’ve been able to identify and work on things individually player by player that each kid needs to get better at and really specifically work on those things with that kid,” he explained. That’s what we’ve tried to do, and we’re seeing a lot of improvements with our kids as individuals because they get to spend so much time on just themselves. We’ve enjoyed that, but we’re looking forward to hopefully in July things get to going better where they allow us to practice as a team.”
With guidance from the Arkansas Activities Association to have players acclimate themselves to their workout routines, Jessieville’s basketball teams are looking develop each athlete’s physical strength and endurance.
Lady Lions head coach Magen Scrivner said while her players cannot do certain things, she has seen improvement in their basic skills.
“We’ve been following all the AAA protocols on check-in, the questions that we’re supposed be asking and temperature checks — we’ve been doing that every single practice,” she explained. “Team stuff we can’t do right now, but we’re doing a lot of individual shooting, ball handling and just a lot of skill work. We’re also taking our athletes through an acclimation period where it’s a lot of conditioning and agility stuff, but it’s been going really good. Our athletes were really excited to get back, and it’s really been a great thing as far as the acclimation-period stuff like getting them back into a routine and getting their bodies conditioned and strengthened back. … It’s proven successful for us.”
Jessieville boys head coach Jared White noted that his players are also improving.
“We are currently going four days a week,” he said. “We have had excellent participation from our athletes. We introduced a ball for the first time this week. The kids are working hard and enjoying being out of the house and around their teammates. … You have to be pretty creative with the directives and guidelines in place. I told the kids there is no doubt through all of this we should be better ball handlers and better shooters, and I think the kids are buying in to that. They would love to go live and be able to scrimmage, but the effort and intensity has been great so far.”
Scrivner said that Jessieville is complying with complete adherence to the state’s regulations for high school sports.
“Our coaches are wearing masks the whole time, and our athletes are wearing them inside,” she added. “With AAA restrictions, they don’t have to wear them as long as they’re practicing, but we make sure that we’re doing the distancing that we’re supposed to be doing. We sanitize, we give 30 minutes in-between each practice. … We’re excited to be back and to have a ball in our hand, being able to do some skill work with them.”
Lakeside head girls coach Chris Brock said that his players are excited to be back on the court.
“I brought in groups of about 5-6 at a time (since workouts could begin June 1), and we’ve done a bunch of individual work — a bunch of skill shooting, work on their bodies, some conditioning and stuff like that — so we’ve been really focused on individual-type stuff,” he said. “We haven’t done anything remotely around any kind of team work or anything like that. It’s all been skill development, and we’ve just brought them up at different times in different groups.
“It’s different, but it’s been good. The girls wanted to see each other. They missed seeing each other a lot, so that was nice just getting to talk to each other and see each other face-to-face, and then just getting as many touches of the ball as we can get, get as many skill moves as we can get and get as many shots up as we can get.”
Brock said the conditioning work and strength training will help the players regain lost time on the court.
“We don’t love working on conditioning in the summer, but we’ve got to get started because with all this happening we haven’t been able to get up and down the floor and do stuff like that,” he admitted. “We can’t replace that, so we’re doing some conditioning as well, and it’s been a real positive for us. … We’re hoping that maybe they’ll let us do a little more in July as far as the AAA, but if we just keep doing what we’re doing, that’s okay. We’re just (being) as positive as we possibly can.
“More than anything, we want everybody to be safe. If it’s more safe for us to keep doing individual stuff and not have as many in the gym, then we’ve got to do that. We know that, and we’re fine with that.”