After all basketball activity was halted seven months ago due to COVID-19, the Missouri Southern men’s and women’s basketball teams will finally get the chance to hit the hardwood.

Both teams officially start practices today at Leggett & Platt Athletic Center to prepare for their Nov. 19 season opener on the road at Central Oklahoma.

Lions women’s coach Ronnie Ressel described his excitement level as “through the roof” to get the opportunity to gear up for the season.

“There are a lot of other leagues around our area that don’t get to start until January,” Ressel said. “I’m just extremely thankful and excited that we get to start playing games in November.”

Taking extra precautions

With COVID-19 still an ongoing threat, this basketball season will certainly go down as one to remember.

And that means both coaches will have to take extra precautions in practice to ensure their players are healthy and not showing any signs or symptoms.

Ressel said once the NCAA’s recommendations come out, the players will better understand what they need to do to stay safe and healthy as possible.

“It’s one of those things you hope and pray nothing happens,” Ressel said. “But it seems (something will happen). You see it in all levels of sports from professional and college football right now. You are seeing teams have to reschedule. We have to be realistic. There is a good possibility that could happen. This is the year you got to flow with it and you can’t get worked up about it or get frustrated. You have to stay positive as you possibly can.”

MSSU men’s coach Jeff Boschee said his team has a couple of players who tested positive last week. But they should be back in the next week.

“We had to quarantine our whole team because they were playing 5-on-5 at the beginning of the school year,” Boschee said. “So they all had to quarantine for 14 days. Really didn’t miss anything (basketball-wise), just the academic side of things.”

Ressel said part of the team has already been quarantined due to exposure to the virus, and one of his biggest concerns is how will players return to game shape after being sidelined for 14 days.

“It has affected us, but we have to make adjustments,” Ressel said. “That’s what we have done as a team. When kids were healthy, we worked them out like we normally would.”

Boschee said his team didn’t start workouts until Sept. 20, so they haven’t had much time to establish a routine and go through a full conditioning program.

“We have quite a bit of time before our first game,” Boschee said. “Conditioning that’s usually done before practice starts, we’ll work that in with practice a little bit. It’s been hit or miss, not much organization ... really feels unorganized. It’s just been weird. I like a schedule, I like a routine, and we haven’t been able to get into one.”

Questions galore

Another factor will be traveling. Both teams' conference schedules feature seven trips to Kansas and Oklahoma.

Ressel acknowledged traveling could be a challenge but pointed out having a smaller team could be advantageous on a charter bus.

“The good thing for us with basketball is that we are such a small team when we get put on a charter bus compared to some of the other programs — we will both travel with maybe 20 people,” Ressel said. “But there are other programs that try to travel with 30 or 40. Social-distancing could be a challenge with that. It will still be a challenge for us, but it won’t be as bad because of the numbers we have and using a charter bus.”

Even though the season’s on the horizon, Boschee said there are still a lot of questions to be answered.

“When is it OK to postpone a game? Is there a certain number of kids who have to have it or are quarantined,” Boschee said. “If my best two players are out, can I postpone the game? There are a lot of questions, and hopefully someone can figure it out.”

Another question is if fans will be allowed at home games this season. Fans or no fans, Ressel knows the community support from Joplin will not waver.

“We hope we get to play in front of them and they can come out and enjoy some basketball throughout the winter months and we can all stay safe,” Ressel said.