SCC Men’s basketball awaits return to play in January, coaching staff adapts for COVID-19 restrictions

Chancellor’s decision expected by Nov. 25

The+SCC+Fighting+Artichokes+hope+to+return+to+play+soon

Ole Olafson

The SCC Fighting Artichokes hope to return to play soon

Daniel Moreno, Reporter

In the last few weeks we’ve seen the MLS, NBA and NHL bubbles, MLB playoffs, and most recently, the return of NCAA football.  But questions still remain — when will Scottsdale Community College sports return and will their athletes be ready to compete at the highest level?

These questions have no doubt loomed large for all MCCCD athletes, coaches and athletic staff, as they await the chancellor’s final approval to resume play.

The decision is scheduled to come by Nov. 25.

SCC Men’s basketball Head Coach Mark Bunker was optimistic about both points during a phone interview with nevalleynews.org.

“As of right now the NJCAA governing body that oversees all national junior college athletics has given us the opportunity to play in January,” Bunker said.

Bunker said this would include not only basketball, but all sports played at the junior college level which were not able to start at their regular times because of the coronavirus pandemic.

If the chancellor gives his final approval for sports, Bunker said the basketball team would be able to start practice on Jan. 4 and would have their first game on Jan. 20.

The relatively short amount of time between the start date for practices and the first game presents several hurdles for the team.  Hurdles which have been made taller by COVID-19 restrictions that prohibit Bunker and his staff from having in-person contact with the players and are causing the school’s campus and athletic facilities to remain closed.

The first obstacle likely has to do with the player’s overall health and wellbeing, and whether their individual levels of fitness will affect the team’s effectiveness in the upcoming season.

“It’s been honestly, as I said, very unique — especially when the first wave of COVID hit, and we had a lot of the gyms and fitness centers were on complete lockdown during the summer,” Bunker said.  “Everyone has access to a floor, everybody has access to going outside…we built a strength and conditioning program that was strictly based on body weight and quickness and things like that, they can do without having access to a weight room or having access to any facilities.”

Bunker said that keeping in good communication with the athletes was crucial for his staff to ensure a certain level of fitness was maintained. However, since it is difficult to provide individual motivation without in-person work outs, Bunker expects that the more driven athletes will return in better condition.

Regardless of the athlete’s condition, the length of the season or the final number of wins and losses, Bunker said the program’s primary function is getting the players ready to move on to a four-year school.

“I absolutely want to win every game I coach and they want to win every game they play,” Bunker said.  “But as long as they’re moving on to that four-year university and earning their degrees – we’ve accomplished our goals.  Whether that means we have a complete season or not — as long as we’re moving guys on — I’m happy.”