HENDERSON — The Crossroads Christian men’s basketball team finds itself preparing for a rigorous conference schedule after a handful of COVID-19 cases kept the program quarantined for two weeks.
Head coach Scottie Richardson said that it took time for his players to adjust to his up-tempo style of basketball with masks on once they resumed last Monday, but he believes his team will be ready to go for their next game, which is now not expected to take place until January.
“We gradually worked our way into going live,” Richardson said. “The guys have gotten used to it and we’re looking forward to the next time we can play, but our Lee Christian game scheduled for Tuesday got canceled because of a COVID-19 issue on the girls side. It is what it is, and I’ve told my guys that they have to protect their bubble.”
Richardson admitted that the past few weeks have been mentally straining for him and his players, but he has had several conversations with the team about how adversity can build character and that staying focused during the pandemic is essential to establishing chemistry and efficiency.
With the unorthodox nature of the season so far, combined with the general uncertainty on how many games will be contested, Richardson said that extra emphasis has been placed on accomplishing as much as possible in practice while simultaneously focusing on the safety of everyone in the program.
“I told my staff that this is like coaching a travel ball team or at a summer camp,” Richardson said. “You have six-nine practices, play games and then start over. That’s where we’re at right now. Everything is day-to-day, and I told my guys to not take any practice for granted, because it might be the last for a while.”
Richardson credited his senior class for keeping team morale high during the quarantine period, which consists of Asher Fulk, who was third in scoring for CCS last year with 11.4 points per game, as well as Colby Taylor and Noah Brantley.
Taylor did not envision his final year at CCS to unfold in its current fashion when the 2019-20 season came to a close, but he has embraced his role as a vocal leader for the program as they attempt to get back on track following their two-week quarantine.
“You have to attack every practice like it’s your last,” Taylor said. “We’ve talked about this a whole lot, and as a senior, there are a lot of things that have been hard to grip. We haven’t had senior night yet, but there may not even be a senior night, so you just have to attack every single day.”
Before CCS suspended basketball activities, Taylor said that he and his teammates learned a lot about themselves during the first four games of the season, which saw CCS fall to Cape Fear Christian Academy, Berean Baptist Academy, Central Carolina Prep and United Faith Christian Academy by more than 20 points a piece.
Taylor compared the slow start of CCS to the struggles Duke’s basketball program has endured through its non-conference schedule, and is confident that the team will successfully rebound under Richardson’s leadership as soon as they start playing opponents in the Mid-Carolina Conference.
Brantley echoed Taylor’s sentiments about CCS’ outlook heading into 2021, but he affirmed that the extended break in the action cannot be a deterrent and that everyone has to be ready in all aspects of the game for CCS to make a significant run at the NCISAA 1A Championship.
“Mentally, we’re doing a lot of film work and making adjustments, but we have to keep working physically,” Brantley said. “We’re about to go into a prolonged break and we hope we can return at the end of December. Hopefully all of these guys will come back in shape and ready to keep going, because two weeks is a long time. I’ve been out for two weeks and it’s caught up with me a little bit, but we know we have to be physically ready.”
Despite currently sitting at 0-4, Richardson has every reason to believe that CCS will contend for a conference championship with everyone at full health and the addition of transfer center John Eason Jr. to the roster.
Eason’s placement in the active rotation will be crucial as CCS prepares to play 12 games over five weeks, but Richardson has formulated a practice schedule that will allow his players to devote an equal amount of time to each opponent on the calendar.
“We’re going to have three games every week starting in January,” Richardson said. “We do a really good job with scouting, so Monday is a prep day for Tuesday, while Wednesday is a shorter practice that serves as prep for two games. The focus remains on us, and if we do what we’re supposed to do, then the rest takes care of itself.”
Barring any additional issues related to COVID-19, CCS’ next game will take place in Wilson against Community Christian on Jan. 5 at 8 p.m.