Reaves Previews Pandemic Season

Ryan Jones, Managing Editor

When Kerri Reaves stepped in as interim head coach for Central Connecticut women’s basketball, nothing could have prepared her for what her first full season would look like.

“I can’t think of anything more weird,” Reaves said. “It is unlike anything I’ve ever dreamed of or thought about ever in my college coaching career.”

The 2020-2021 college basketball season is certainly unlike any other in the NCAA’s history. Until September 16, there was no confirmation that one would be taking place at all. Now a month removed from the NCAA’s decision, plans are starting to become more concrete as to what this season will look like.

For CCSU, no official schedule has been released, however according to Reaves the women’s team will be playing their conference games much earlier this season than usual, alluding to weekend series starting in mid-December. This expedites the start of the regular season, which normally would not start before New Years. Starting these games early would also eliminate some non-conference games from the schedule, though it was already expected that there would be less of these taking place.

Reaves said the situation right now with scheduling is a fluid one. “We just kind of have to roll with the punches. You know what I mean?”

“These guidelines are put in place for the health and safety of everybody involved with the programs, so there’s no sense in being frustrated or angry about them,” Reaves said. “It’s just the way it goes. Everybody’s looking out for our best interest.”

Reaves assured that the team and herself are locked in and ready to face whatever this season throws at them, but also acknowledged the difficulties it can pose on the players.

“My concern on a daily basis was really about our student athletes and the type of experience that they’re going to have,” Reaves said. “We have some really intelligent kids on our team that are planners. They need structure and it’s been tough on them with not having classes meet and things like that.”

Perhaps no demographic of student athletes have been impacted more than this year’s class of freshmen.

“My heart goes out to them,” Reaves said. Though the season will be taking place this year, all summer workouts and meetings did not take place, something Reaves considers critical in the development of incoming players.

The campus climate has not helped ease the transition either as student athletes aren’t leaving their dorms for class and are left without any real opportunity for team bonding outside of practice. “It’s a lot on them coming in and then you throw a college basketball practice schedule on top of that,” Reaves said.

Despite the challenges they’ve faced, Reaves said she’s admired the freshmen’s “ability to adjust and roll with the punches. I’m very, very impressed with their mentality so far.”

Any semblance of structure and scheduling is welcome for Reaves, who is happy to see the state of basketball trending that way.

“When we were told ‘this is when we’re definitely going to be able to start practice,’ it gave myself and the team some structure or something to look forward to rather than just kind of going with the flow, not knowing what was going to happen or when it was going to happen,” Reaves said. “It’s very reassuring to know that we have definite games, definite dates and definite things that we need to do by definite times.”

When college sports were originally put on halt in March, the NCAA likewise announced an additional year of eligibility would be granted to spring athletes. Since then, this has also been done for fall and winter athletes. In a move that was widely praised, its ramifications on how college basketball teams are built have yet to be seen.

Reaves said this extra year granted is “a really big shakeup in the basketball realm.”  This is especially true for seniors, who will be using this year to further hone their skills.

“That takes some pressure off of them,” Reaves said “but I think most definitely, especially with some of the transfer rules that are coming down from the NCAA combined with the extra year of eligibility, it makes recruiting a little more difficult because you just don’t know what your team’s going to look like from 2021 spring to 2021 fall. That’s just the way it’s going to have to be for right now but I do think it’s going to have major impacts on recruiting classes from now for the next two or three years.”

Reaves was quick to praise the older core of the Blue Devils, specifically noting the attention to detail they’ve had along with the leadership role they’ve taken in these unprecedented times.

“It’s not just one player,” Reaves said. “It’s a collective group of our senior class that have done a really, really good job. I expect big things from them and more importantly, I think they expect big things from themselves, which is more important than,  having me yell at them all the time. They know what they expect from themselves and they’ve set the bar high for themselves.”

When asked to describe this season in a word, Reaves said “focused.” Perhaps more than ever, being able to keep a clear head can be difficult. Reaves said the team knows that winning comes at a cost, hard work, and is ready to pay that price.

“I want them to get that,” Reaves said. “It started in the winter, went through the spring and the summer with our meetings and now it’s coming to fruition on the court and in the weight room. It’s a long road to success and we’re meeting every challenge. I just want them to know that they work really, really hard and it’s for a reason. And it’s going to pay off in the end.”