Back on Nov. 13, MSU Billings opted out of playing men’s and women’s conference basketball schedules due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Without playing any conference games, the Yellowjackets won’t be eligible for any potential postseason play in 2021.
While it’s a bummer, the year isn’t a lost one, as athletes will retain their eligibility. But grinding through practices with no championship, and potentially no games, to work toward?
“I think it’s huge, especially with the incoming freshmen. It’s really hard to come in and immediately have a connection, so I feel like this is a really good year for the freshmen to get used to the program and for us to build that team chemistry," said sophomore guard Danielle Zahn, who is a Florence graduate.
“As a team, we were very devastated when we heard about what happened, how we couldn’t play this year. Our coach always says just win the wait, keep pushing no matter what, so when the time comes we won’t have to get ready we’ll be ready," said sophomore guard and Billings Central grad Chrishon Dixon.
MSUB athletes have already broke from campus to spend the holiday season at home. In accordance with GNAC guidelines, there can’t be any athletic competition until at least Jan. 7. Athletes are coming back to campus Jan. 10 in hopes of picking games up as soon as the middle of the month, but they’re keeping the big picture in mind, too.
"We just want to spend more time with our families. Usually we don’t get this time off. Usually we’re playing games, practicing, traveling a lot, so we just want to take the time to spend with our families as much as we can," Dixon said. "Just work out. Just work out like we’ve been doing, and then just stay in shape. As athletes we should never be out of shape.”
“It's just realizing every day why we’re here, putting the jersey on every day, just thinking about our purpose here," Zahn said. "I think that’s really big, because a lot of us do have another two, three years, and I think it’s best that we keep looking forward instead of thinking about what happened yesterday or what’s going to happen three months from now.”
For the out-of-state athletes, being at home may not have much benefit. In some cases, players won’t be able to get in gyms and will have to work out in other ways.
“I think it’s a little bit different situation for everybody, just because we don’t all live in the same place. It’s definitely going to be interesting to see what other people do," said Zahn. "Other (teammates) that live in Washington ... they’re pretty much like in full shutdown, so I think that kind of sucks. But like I said, day by day we’ve just got to work with what we’ve got.”
If MSUB is playing games in 2021, it’s possible those games could come against the in-state Frontier Conference schools, though nothing is final, as the schedule-makers must remain fluid with situations constantly evolving.
There’s nothing on the schedule for the Yellowjackets for now, but they’ll be ready should the opportunity arise.