By Emma Ralls
While the fall sports season for soccer and volleyball were pushed back until next spring
due to COVID-19, the men’s and women’s basketball teams may finally get their chance to start playing later this month.
According to current schedules found at www.highpointpanthers.com, the men’s basketball team plays its first game on Nov. 25 at Davidson College. The women’s basketball team is also planning to resume play before the year’s end, with its first game currently scheduled on Dec. 19 at UNC Asheville.
On Nov. 4, HPU Basketball head coach Tubby Smith announced the 2020-2021 schedule for the men’s basketball team. The Panthers will play 26 games, 20 of which will be conference games, five non conference and one exhibition contest.
“It feels good,” Smith said, when asked how it felt to get approval for the season. “It certainly has been delayed, and we did lose a few games. We were supposed to start on Nov. 10. Now, we’re starting on [Nov.] 25. I’m excited to know that we are going to be able to play.”
With practices resuming and their first game on the horizon, Smith and HPU Basketball are making the health and safety of their players a top priority. Smith stated that they are testing their players every week for COVID-19 in anticipation of the upcoming matches.
“The issue is that there is no uniformity from state to state or conference to conference,” Smith said. “In [North Carolina], we have eight different Division I conferences, and what happens is each state has its own rules.”
Not only will the upcoming season’s games look different for the coaches and players, but they will also look different for the fans.
“I’m sure we’re not going to be able to have more than 50 [people],” Smith said about the possibility of fans getting to see the games in person. “In basketball, it’s going to be worse from a visual standpoint because it’s hard to hide the empty seats.”
For the last couple of years, High Point University has streamed basketball games on ESPN3. Streaming will be a key means for fans to tune in and still support the Panthers, especially with the university’s uncertainty of hosting in-person fans.
For eight of the first 10 games, the Panthers are traveling to play. To help limit the spread of disease, the games are going to take place in a “back-to- back” style, as opposed to the normal home-and-home format. The new arrangement is 10 home games and 10 away games “bunched back-to-back,” according to Smith.
“We can control the spread this way,” Smith said. “We’ll go to Asheville for our first league games on Dec. 11 and 12. We’re going to have 22 hours between the beginning of the first game and the beginning of the next game.”
How the team will play will also depend on the number of players allowed on the court. The team was able to start practicing five on five again when North Carolina entered phase three on Oct. 2. Up to that point, the team had not been able to practice at full scale throughout the month of September.
“With the [number of] virus [cases] going back up in the state, we could be going back to not playing five on five,” Smith said. “You also have to worry about the outside entities, like the referees and scorekeepers, meeting all the protocols — the back-to-back series is going to be good because it’s going to help us get through the season.”
To view the current schedule and any changes, visit www.highpointpanthers.com.