MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For the second time this winter, the Morgantown girls basketball team has begun the process of putting the pieces in place for the 2021 season. Like all winter sports teams in counties where in-person learning has begun across the state, the Mohigans opened a one-week conditioning window Monday afternoon.
“I have never been more ready to be back in a gym in my life. What a great day it was to see those kids. It was just an unbelievable feeling to be back in the gym,” said Morgantown head coach Jason White on Tuesday’s edition of WAJR’s Talk of the Town.
“A lot of smiles underneath those masks they were wearing. We kind of call it our unofficial ‘boot camp’ week to get back into some sort of shape. Usually this is the part that athletes dread. But they were super-excited to be back in there. There was a lot of life in the gym.”
Teams are not allowed to begin sport-specific drills until February 15, but White was able to bring his team together for the first time since Governor Jim Justice halted all preseason activities for winter sports on November 13. By that point, the Mohigans were nearly a full week into their official preseason drills.
“It is difficult once you start something and then have it pulled away from you. If you haven’t started yet, you are not fully back in that mindset of that the season has begun. We got four practices in and before we could start our fifth one, we found out that afternoon that we had to cancel practice and that essentially postponed our season.
“You certainly understand the safety side of things. But it felt like just athletes of the middle and high school age were the only ones to have these restrictions put on them. It wasn’t like the rest of the community was feeling that restriction. People could go out to eat, go to bars, go shopping and go where they wanted to go. But athletes couldn’t get into the gym. They could go to school, but they couldn’t get in the gym. And that felt weird.”
During the three-month layoff, White made sure to keep in contact with his team virtually in a group setting.
“We tried to set up Zoom conferences or Google Meets. We told them that there is going to be a season at some point. Remember what the goals are that this team has. And not only that, but just to get them together and talk.
“We had our own little Christmas Zoom meeting where us coaches were kind of dressed up in goofy outfits and hats. We wanted to stay connected and feel part of a team.”
Morgantown qualified for the Class AAA state tournament last winter, falling to Woodrow Wilson in the quarterfinal round. The Mohigans started off with a 5-10 mark, but won 9 of their next 10 games. Nearly their entire roster returns this winter, led by DePaul signee Kaitlyn Ammons.
The Mohigans will open their season by hosting George Washington on March 6. They are slated to play 15 regular season games in the span of 34 days.
“It is going to be chaos and pressure on coaches. There’s going to be a lot of games where you go in blind. You play on back-to-back nights. You are not going to be able to get out and scout like you could in years past. Once we actually get to playing games in the first week of March, it is about which team is going to make the best adjustments from March 1 to the middle of April when you get to the sectional tournament.”