ST. LOUIS — With the pandemic abruptly ending sports seasons, it has robbed some athletes of lifelong memories and chances at scholarships.
Just one year ago, Phillip Russell and the Vashon Wolverines snatched another state title defeating Springfield Catholic.
They were supposed to go back-to-back before the COVID-19 pandemic set in.
“It makes me feel down, like I’m shocked. I can’t believe none of this,” Russell said.
For Russell, this was supposed to be a memorable senior season. He had already signed with Southeast Missouri State to play basketball. But after SEMO fired their head coach, Russell reopened his recruitment. But due to the coronavirus, that’s slowed Russell’s recruitment process.
“I’m definitely worried because I don’t have like nothing now,” Russell said.
Adding insult to injury, the NCAA’s dead period has been extended through May which means Russell can’t visit schools or meet with coaches.
“Yeah it’s been real tough, it’s a whole lot of over the phone,” he said. “I just pray, talk to my family and that’s it.”
Russell who has multiple offers said he plans to test the waters before making a decision this summer.
But, recruits aren’t the only ones trying to adapt to the new normal, so are college programs, especially head coaches.
“I don’t know if recruiting ever stops,” said Southern Illinois University of Carbondale head coach Nick Hill. “If your dream is to play at the next level, you can make that happen.”
Normally at a disadvantage to those Power 5 programs or other schools with more resources, Hill said due to the pandemic, everyone is playing on the same ball field. Which is why he said there will be two types of people that come out of this pandemic.
“There’s going to be that person that’s kind of stuck in their old ways,” Hill said. “And then there’s going to be the people that adapt and just and come up with new habits and routines and they strive from this and get better.”
That’s why his message to athletes looking for a new home, especially those going to a smaller school is simple, maintain their grades and stay positive.
“Rule number one is all coaches are going to talk to your current coaches so whatever they got you doing is control what you can control,” Hill said. “This actually gives us more time to look at the film.”