After months of uncertainty, ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions, and multiple postponed or canceled games, the Hillsdale College men’s basketball team is ready to start its season with a home game on Saturday.
At 3:00 p.m. this Saturday, the Chargers will begin their season against G‑MAC opponent Trevecca Nazarene University, and they are more than ready to play.
“The practices have been really intense, energetic and upbeat because we’re really just looking forward to playing,” senior forward Davis Larson said.
By no means, however, is the team overlooking the challenge its first opponent poses.
“Trevecca’s got a large group back from last year’s team as well, so they continue to get better and are certainly a danger,” associate head coach Keven Bradley said.
This matchup will be the team’s home opener, following the cancellation of the game against Salem University scheduled for last week, and the postponement of the game against Kentucky Wesleyan University originally scheduled for this Thursday.
The COVID-19 restrictions have forced a lot of changes and complications on the season, especially now as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s newest restrictions.
“If you test positive, you don’t have to get tested for 90 days because of the COVID-19 policy,” sophomore Cole Nau said. “But if you don’t test positive within 90 days, you have to get tested six times a week.”
Even with all of the uncertainty surrounding this year’s season, the team knows it has to be ready for any changes that may come next.
“Our team’s got to be prepared for anything,” Nau said. “We’re gonna have some obstacles, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, just play your hardest and work your hardest no matter what.”
Head coach John Tharp echoed this ready-for-anything mentality, saying it will be a key to the team’s success.
“We’ve had so many different things that have been canceled on us, so we have to be ready to adjust and adapt to whatever circumstances that we’re gonna be in,” Tharp said. “We have to work as hard as we can with whatever group that we have, and that includes players and coaches, and go out there and compete and represent the way we’ve tried to for a while now.”
The postponement of Thursday’s game against Kentucky Wesleyan epitomizes this ever-changing environment. The team was informed of the postponement only three days before they were scheduled to play.
“Both their men’s and women’s teams had an outbreak of COVID, so we are rescheduled to play them on Dec. 31,” Tharp said. “I feel terrible for the guys but unfortunately it’s the world we’re living in, it’s happening all over and we’ve got to prepare and go about our business like we’re getting ready to play, that’s the only thing I know how to do.”
The Charger’s game against Lake Erie, set for Dec. 12 has been canceled as well. This week’s postponement, however, hit especially hard for the team.
“With Wesleyan, they beat us twice last year, and one of them was in the playoffs, so we all kind of had that game marked on the calendar.” Larson said.
As he broke the news to the team on Monday, Tharp shared their disappointment, but looked right the ship.
“You can see in their eyes and their body language that they were disappointed.” Tharp said. “But, as we keep telling them, that’s something that’s not in our control, and I know we’re sad about it but we have to just prepare for Saturday’s game.”
Looking ahead, the team readies itself for an attempt to repeat as regular season G‑MAC champions in a season that is far from regular.
“A lot of years, you have exhibition games, and you have non-conference games to prepare you for the conference season,” Larson said. “Now, though, every game matters, every week you’re trying to get two wins, so it’s almost like a do-or-die situation, because you had no other preparation, you’re just kind of thrown into the fire.”
As cancellations mount, the players’ anticipation only increases.
“Especially of late, before Thanksgiving and right when we came back from break, practices had been pretty intense,” Larson said. “I think all of us are super excited for the season to finally start, and to play someone else.”
With the start of the season finally on the doorstep, the Chargers are more than ready to get out on the court and compete with any and every opponent.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against, I expect us to compete at a very, very high level.” Tharp said.