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LOC’s student-athletes, coaches adjusting to COVID-19 reality

When the balls stop bouncing and a college’s basketball season ends, relationships between players tend to roll on, with some gathering at the gym between classes to chat hoops or simply keep up with what’s going on in Memphis.

Just such a routine was unfolding for members of LeMoyne-Owen College’s 2019-20 women’s and men’s teams when COVID-19 abruptly inserted itself. LOC’s Magicians play in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC), which completed its post-season tournament March 7 in Rock Hill, S.C. The men’s team fell in the first round; the Lady Magicians made it to the semifinals.

That was just ahead of COVID-19’s declaration as a global pandemic and the domino-like cancellation of the NCAA’s Division 1 basketball conference championships. Even the NCAA’s wildly popular March Madness/Final Four tournament became a cancellation casualty.

Gabbie Morgan (Courtesy photo)

Gabbie Morgan and other LOC student-athletes now are in the same altered reality as other LOC students, who have been directed to remain at home for the rest of the semester as part of a county-wide effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“I am, honestly, disappointed,” said Morgan, a senior from Southaven, Miss. and a guard for the Lady Magicians. “I am more of a hands-on student and my teammates are like family to me.”

She will miss physically being in class and learning. “Yes! I’ll miss being able to go the gym and play basketball, but I’m most ready to finish my senior capstone,” Morgan said.

Online classes start March 30th.

LOC women’s basketball team head coach Anthony Partee. (Courtesy photo)

LOC’s women’s head coach, Anthony Partee, reflected on the change in routine forced by the public health emergency.

“In the upcoming weeks, I would normally use that time to have one-on-one meetings with my players to evaluate how they believe their season was and the plans that we have going forward,” said Partee. “The key thing is academically remaining eligible, making sure they keep their GPA up and are taking care of business.”

Social-distancing policy does not allow coaches to hold in-person recruiting and LOC’s men’s head coach, William Anderson, said that’s a major deal in setting up an effective team for next season.

“It’s impacting our recruiting. This was the period we would hold visits to the campus, but the NCAA has restricted both on- and off-campus recruiting until April 15th,” said Anderson, who fully supports the precautions.

“They definitely made the best decision and I am glad they are taking it this serious; people have to adhere to what local and national officials are saying.”

Torreious Carwell (Courtesy photo)

Torreious Carwell, a 6’4” junior guard for the Magicians is from Memphis and lives in a LOC dorm. “They shut down classes and school, so now we have to leave the dorms. Some of our circumstances are not the best.”

Prior to COVID-19, Carwell’s typical day would unfold along this line:

  • 8 a.m. – Go to the gym, get about 500 basketball shots in.
  • 9:30 a.m. – Shower, have breakfast.
  • 10- 10:50 a.m. – First class
  • 11 a.m.-1 p.m. – Get some rest, do assignments.
  • 1 p.m. – Second class
  • 2:30 p.m. – Weight session
  • 5 p.m. – Hoop session with teammates.

“Now that I am home, I don’t have access to the community center,” he said. “I try to get a workout in, just to get some cardio and keep my fitness up.”

An upside to the upheaval is this: “Now that I’m home I’m going to spend time with my little brothers and sisters.“

Lamontazia Blair (Courtesy photo)

Lamontazia Blair, captain of the Lady Magicians, lives in Nashville and relies heavily on technology to keep in touch with her teammates.

“Sometimes we text each other through group message, we also Facetime one another. It’s always about basketball, just keeping up with one another.”

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