'I'm not surprised:' Local coaches react to Pritzker, IDPH decision to put basketball 'on hold'

Crystal Lake Central coach Derek Crabill talks with the Tigers on the sidelines against Dundee-Crown during their IHSA Class 4A regional girls basketball championship game Feb. 13, 2019 at Cary-Grove High School.
Crystal Lake Central coach Derek Crabill talks with the Tigers on the sidelines against Dundee-Crown during their IHSA Class 4A regional girls basketball championship game Feb. 13, 2019 at Cary-Grove High School.

Richmond-Burton boys basketball coach Brandon Creason anticipated Tuesday’s news regarding the high school basketball season for several weeks now.

Actually, several months.

“I’m not surprised,” said Creason, after the IHSA basketball season was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is kind of the way it was trending. Nothing was happening in the news that indicated anything positive. It’s been a fear since last March. If they can cancel the NCAA (men’s and women’s basketball) Tournament, they can cancel the KRC basketball season. If they can cancel the NCAA Tournament, everything else is up for grabs.”

Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced on Tuesday that boys and girls basketball had been moved from the medium risk list of high school sports to high risk. Practices for winter sports were tentatively scheduled for Nov. 16, with the modified season running through Feb. 13.

Cheerleading and competitive dance, both of which had been considered medium risk, were moved to low risk and may start on time. Bowling, girls gymnastics and boys swimming, the other winter sports, already were considered low risk and can compete.

The move from medium to high risk puts basketball in 2020-21 in jeopardy.

“I’m super-disappointed. I live for the game,” Crystal Lake Central girls basketball coach Derek Crabill said. “I just want to be out there with the team doing the things we love. I know we’re in a sticky situation as a community and as a nation, but I’m disappointed with the decision.

“Four weeks ago, I thought maybe we were on track to start in the middle of November. But as the positivity rate (for the coronavirus) increased, I thought it was going to be a much longer shot. I can’t say I’m surprised by the governor’s decision. I don’t know the reasoning behind the switch from medium to high. I thought if they were going to do that, they would have done it this summer.”

Crabill thought if the IDPH had pushed the season back because of the recent higher positivity rate, it would be understandable. He, and others, find switching the risk level now perplexing.

“My biggest question is, ‘Why all of a sudden did it change?’ ” Hampshire girls basketball coach Eric Samuelson said. “If it was considered high-risk three months ago, this wouldn’t be a shock at all, would it? The rules of basketball were the same three months ago. I’m not a doctor and I’m not a politician, so I don’t understand why (the risk level) that changed.”

IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said the IHSA Board of Directors will discuss the winter sports that are proceeding, as well as other plans for basketball and wrestling, in its meeting Wednesday.

Creason had an inkling all fall that basketball could be in trouble. The IHSA added a sectional round for cross country and golf, but did not have state competitions for either.

“If you cancel the outdoor golf state tournament, how do you come back and play basketball indoors?” Creason said. “When that was canceled, I was convinced basketball was going to be, at best, postponed. If you’re not playing golf outside, you’re not going to justify basketball.”

Crabill’s daughter Avery is a junior who plays basketball and volleyball at Woodstock North, so he is looking at the situation as a coach and a parent.

“I’m sure Avery is very upset,” Crabill said. “I have not talked to my players yet. I have had several come by my room, and parents have contacted me in passing. They said, ‘We don’t care if there’s no fans. We don’t care if we play just conference teams, we just want to play.’ The parents were like, ‘We want to see our kids play, but if we can’t, and have to watch them on the computer (streaming games) instead, so be it.”

Crabill wondered if some school districts would have opted out of basketball even if the governor’s decision had gone the other way.

“How many districts would opt in?” Crabill said. “I don’t know what our district would have said. How many districts would play? I don’t know what lawyers would have said. Hopefully things start to turn around in our county and the state. we can get this season off the ground, even if it’s a shortened season.”

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