BOZEMAN — The month of March is always a busy one for college basketball. It's crunch time for teams who are still trying to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
However, this March is different than in years past because it marks one year since the coronavirus became very real in the sports world -- a month that Montana State forward Borja Fernandez will never forget.
“You could not even go to the street because the military and police were in the street," Fernandez explained. "It was kind of crazy."
As a native of Bilbao, Spain, Fernandez was forced to return home after both Montana State and the Big Sky Conference tournament shut down last year because of COVID-19.
"I was at home for like five months," Fernandez said. "I was only supposed to be home for one month, and it ended up being five months. It was kind of crazy.”
Because Spain was hit hard during the first wave of the pandemic, the country imposed a much more restrictive lockdown than the U.S., one of the toughest in the world.
"After a month and a half, they reopened for a little bit, and for the next month you could only go to the street for two hours, so it was hard because I couldn’t work out," Fernandez added. "Being inside was kind of difficult. I didn’t have the choice to play basketball at all.”
Since Fernandez lived in a flat right in the middle of the city, training for this year’s season was difficult, so he got creative.
"Everything was open except basketball courts and fields, so the most I did was go hiking and running or going to the beach and swim," Fernandez explained. "Everything apart from basketball.”
He did what little fundamental work he could while quarantining but wasn’t able to shoot a basketball until returning to Montana this past summer.
“You can see this season that I’m shooting 3% less than last year," Fernandez said. "It can kind of be because of that. The summer is the time to work and work on your shooting skills, so when I came here it was just getting in the extra work and going to the gym.”
Despite the hardships COVID-19 has brought on this year’s basketball season, Fernandez is confident the Bobcats can make a splash at this year’s Big Sky tournament.
“We know what we can do. We just need to go there with confidence. I think we can go to the championship. We just need to play as a team and have fun together," he said.