The News Journal » January tip off works for high school basketball

COVID–19 has changed the way a number of things work from voting to high school basketball.

Because of the pandemic, early and absentee voting was made more widely available.

It proved so popular, with voter turnout increasing exponentially in both the 2020 primary and general election, that the state legislature has taken steps to make some of the changes permanent.

Another change was the beginning of the high school basketball season was pushed back to early January as opposed to early December.

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association follow the legislature’s lead on voting and make the change to the basketball season permanent.

With every participating high school making the high school football playoffs, the state championship games do not take place until early to mid December.

When I asked Williamsburg Boys Basketball Coach Eric Swords to comment about his team for a preview story when we thought the season was going to open as scheduled, he said he couldn’t because his team was still on the football field.

The Yellow Jackets reached the state semi-finals in Class A, losing to Kentucky Country Day on December 11.

Like everything else in 2020, the high school football season was delayed because of COVID–19.

If basketball had gone as scheduled, a number of teams, including Williamsburg, would have already played their first games at that point.

Williamsburg has been in that situation in past seasons. What has happened in those cases is that the games were rescheduled until football season was over and the players could begin playing basketball.

However, coming off a football season that has been going since July, many of these players are now being asked to go directly into a grueling basketball season that is not scheduled to end until March.

The smaller schools would definitely benefit from the month-long layoff as players would have time to practice and get up to speed before beginning to play games that count.

One of the things that is preached about boys’ high school basketball in Kentucky is that all of the schools across the state, no matter their size, are playing to cut down the nets at Rupp Arena.

In 2020, before the Boys’ Sweet 16 was cancelled because of COVID–19, several smaller schools, including Hazard, Martin County and Elizabethtown were among the 16 teams that earned the right to play along with big schools such as Scott County, Fern Creek and Male out of Louisville, and George Rogers Clark.

Hazard is Class A in football, Martin County is Class 2A and Elizabethtown is Class 3A compared to the majority of the others who play in Class 5A or 6A

Should these smaller teams be penalized for a successful football season that has them playing into December?

Should the athletes be forced to choose between football and basketball?

Moving the start of basketball season doesn’t really lengthen the season all that much.

Plus, if we don’t see a number of games postponed because of COVID–19 and weather, basketball would be closer to the same number of games in the regular season.

The only thing lost would be the traditional travel tournaments played over the Christmas holiday break.

However, on the back it, not much changes.

In 2020, the 50th District Tournament began on Feb. 25. Even with the delay because of COVID–19, the 2021 tournament is scheduled to begin on March 13.

Yes, the change will affect spring sports.

The 13th Region Tournament championship will be March 29, which is the same day high school baseball and softball are scheduled to open their respective seasons.

Not to mention, track and tennis will also be beginning.

While basketball is a non-contact sport in name only, players involved in spring sports should more easily transition from basketball than asking football players to immediately begin playing basketball.

It is, at least worth trying on a trial basis in 2022.

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