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Arizona Debuts the Nike Air Foamposite One in 1997


Welcome to MEMORY LANE

With March Madness canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, we’ll be reliving some legendary tournament moments on the days when NCAA basketball would’ve been played. Enjoy.

The Wildcats won the national chip in 1997. They came back from a 10 point deficit late in the game, forced overtime and won it by five. It was dramatic and entertaining and blah, blah, blah…

The important thing is that a few of them debuted the Nike Air Foamposite One. The Foams were made for Penny Hardaway but the Cats got ‘em first, leaving an extremely, extremely important footprint on the way to etching their names in the history of the NCAA.

“Eric Lautenbach came to our team,” Mike Bibby told us a few months ago. “It was the first year we were there and he came and sat everybody down and said, ‘I got a shoe that no one has seen yet. It’s not your team color.’ Back then you matched your shoe with your uniform. It’s not like nowadays where everybody wears a different color just to be different.

“‘It’s not going to match your uniform. It’s up to you guys if you guys want to wear it.’ I said, ‘Hell yeah, I’m wearing them.’ A few guys wore them. I think Jason Terry wore them, I think Quynn Tebbs wore them, a few guys that sat on the bench wore them. But that was it, really. He got a shoe that’s not our color, hasn’t come out, no one has seen it yet. ‘It’s up to you guys if you want to wear them.’ You know I wasn’t turning that down.”

The visionary Eric Avar, who would go on to work with Kobe Bryant on his signature line, led the charge on the first Foamposite. Its upper was made out of a hard plastic shell while carbon fiber sat below in the midsole. The sneaker was far ahead of its time.

“I wasn’t sure I was even going to show that sample to him,” Avar said about Penny. “We had other ideas we were presenting. But he leaned over, looked into the bag and said, ‘What is that?’ He reached in, grabbed it and he says, ‘This is my next shoe!’ I was like, ‘Okay! There’s the go-to-market strategy!’”

Maybe it was the perfect storm of the Cats being wild cool and Penny playing ball like a stampeding horde of wild horses. Or maybe the Foams would’ve taken off regardless of who was rocking them on the court. Whatever the reason is, the Foams were launched into basketball footwear lore, climbing to heights that nobody could’ve predicted.

The DMV, made up of Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia, is now synonymous with Foamposite silhouettes, like New York is known for wearing Air Force 1s. Foams have their own geography now.

When the cartographers eventually write it all down, that geography started out in 1997 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis when Bibby, Terry and the Cats broke everyone’s necks. 

PREVIOUS MEMORY LANE STORIES:

Illinois’ Elite 8 Comeback vs. Arizona in 2005

Michigan State’s National Title in 2000

Florida Gulf Coast’s Incredible Run in 2013

Butler vs. Duke in the 2010 National Title Game

UCLA vs. Gonzaga in the 2006 Sweet 16

Max Resetar is an Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Photo via Getty.





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Executives reportedly expect Gordon Hayward to opt in to $34 million. Because $34 million. – ProBasketballTalk


Jazz center Rudy Gobert was thankfully cleared of coronavirus.

But not before being mistreated, according to his friend and French national team teammate, Magic guard Evan Fournier.

Fournier, via L’Equipe, as translated by Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando:

“It hurts me, he became the face of the virus in the NBA. The behaviour of people and journalists has been disgusting, I don’t understand taking out the names of the sick: it looks like the transfer window when it’s the scoop race. It was a coronavirus free agency, unbearable. You can say a guy is sick without naming him: today Philadelphia and the Lakers have cases and we don’t know who they are”, Fournier said.

I empathize with Fournier’s concern about privacy. But the defense of NBA players getting tested amid a nationwide shortage of coronavirus tests included: Players frequently interact closely with the public. Meeting an NBA player is highly memorable for most people and often forgettable for the player. Revealing the names of those who test positive was the only proper way to warn people who came into close contact with those players. It’s not as if players know how to discreetly tell each fan whom they met during the previous two weeks.

Hopefully, Gobert’s positive test became public on his own terms. He still had a right to medical privacy. But his name emerging did serve the greater good – not just in terms of taking coronavirus more seriously generally, but specifically alerting people who came near him to take precautions.

That’s why I don’t understand half measures like announcing that a member of an organization has coronavirus without naming the person. What does that accomplish?

As far as Fournier’s disgusting-behavior charge… Gobert was the face of coronavirus in the NBA even before testing positive. He earned that title through his reckless actions. To his credit, Gobert apologized then backed that with a signification donation.

It is unfair Gobert received heightened criticism because he got coronavirus. If he never tested positive, he likely would have received far less scrutiny. His actions were reckless, regardless, though. It’s OK to point that out.



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Thunder’s Danilo Gallinari helping fund COVID-19 test kits, protective equipment


Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari has connected with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department to provide funding for 400 coronavirus testing kits as well as personal protection equipment such as face shields, gloves, gowns and N95 masks.

The focus will be providing for high-risk individuals such as health care workers, first responders, people over 65 and those who are immunocompromised. Gallinari provided funding for items that will be used next week.

“There is a need, and so people in my position, if we can help, if I can help, it’s something that I feel that I want to do and I need to do,” Gallinari told ESPN by phone Friday. “It was a great to collaborate with the local institutions and be able to set this up. Since I’m here, I’m leading the quarantine here, this is where I am, so it feels even better to be able to help the situation here.

“Knowing what’s going on in my country and what my family has been through both in France and Italy, if I can help mitigating or at least avoiding some of the troubles we had early on in Italy, and we can do better here in OKC, and the States in general, that’s good.”

The last time Gallinari shot a basketball was March 11, when he was warming up some 15 minutes before tipoff against the Utah Jazz. The game never started, as Rudy Gobert‘s positive COVID-19 test was about to stop the entire sports world in its tracks.

Since then, Gallinari, 31, has been quarantined in Oklahoma City with his fiancée, working out once or twice a day, cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner and watching shows on Netflix.

“If I was by myself,” he said, “it would be way, way tougher.”

Gallinari’s native Italy has been one of the countries hit hardest by COVID-19, with the entire nation going on lockdown a few weeks ago. He said his family is still doing well, although they’ve been quarantined for more than a month. But some of his close friends have been affected, including a childhood best friend who lost his grandmother, and a childhood teammate who lost his mother on Thursday.

“It’s a tough situation, and I could tell you a lot of not-nice stories, in terms of people passing away or people that I know — best friends, family members — that have been affected by the virus,” he said. “The stories, they keep coming up every day. Every hour.”

After witnessing the issues his country faced with the outbreak, Gallinari was one of the first professional athletes to speak out about the need for closing arenas and stadiums in the United States to fans. He said that a day before the Thunder played the Jazz on March 11, at a time when shutting arena doors still seemed a toss-up decision.

“I wasn’t predicting anything or I wasn’t a magician, I was just telling everybody what was going on in Italy was something very possible in the States, too,” he said.

A little more than 24 hours later, Gobert tested positive and the NBA never even got to the stage of closing doors to fans; the season was immediately suspended.

“Fortunately, [NBA commissioner] Adam Silver did an amazing job closing everything right away, so we didn’t go through Phase 2. We never even played games with no fans,” Gallinari said. “After what happened, it was great for him to do what he did and stop everything. It was the right thing to do. So I’m glad. It’s been tough, but as players we’ve been quarantined since March 11, so we started the quarantine that night.”

The United States passed China on Thursday with the most cases worldwide of COVID-19. As of Friday, there had been more than 100,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., with the death toll rising above 1,500.

“I think there is still time to contain the situation,” Gallinari said. “It’s very important the citizens understand how to behave and this is not something that will go by tomorrow or is gonna go away in a few days or a week or two weeks. It’s something that’s going to take months, and so with a little help other like people like me can do all over the States in their local communities, hopefully we’ll be able to contain the numbers.”



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Watch full game: No. 15 Hampton shocks No. 2 Iowa State in the 2001 NCAA tournament


Men’s Basketball

March 27, 2020

Watch full game: No. 15 Hampton shocks No. 2 Iowa State in the 2001 NCAA tournament

March 27, 2020

Watch 15-seed Hampton upset Iowa State in the 2001 NCAA tournament. The Pirates closed the game on a 10-0 run, ultimately taking the lead on a shot with six seconds left, to become the fourth 15-seed to upset a 2-seed in tournament history. Hampton won 58-57.



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Class of 2022 Star Skyy Clark Is Married to the Game


EDITOR’S NOTE: This feature was written and shot weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic led to the suspension of basketball seasons.

Gilbert Arenas realized Skyy Clark was special very early on. The 12-year NBA vet first caught a glimpse of how special Clark, now a five-star PG in the Class of 2022, was before he stepped foot on a high school campus. 

“We lived next to each other, so I got to see him before he started his basketball career,” Arenas tells SLAM. “He was just a young kid playing around. Me and his dad played in a rec league together and we were blowing a team out so bad [and] he went in there and hit four threes.”

Arenas also signed off on Clark using the “Hibachi” nickname, one of the many monikers the three-time All-Star had in the NBA. 

“It was an honor for me that a young kid that talented wanted that name,” Arenas says. “I told him if you’re going to be ‘Hibachi,’ you gotta burn these people up and he’s doing it. It’s just an honor that he’d want to carry the name for the rest of his career.”

Clark comes from a lineage of professional athletes. His father Kenny played in the NFL as a wide receiver with the Minnesota Vikings. Dante Culpepper is his cousin. He does strength and conditioning with Arenas at EPX Facility in Woodland Hills, CA, and soaks up free game on the court. Only a sophomore at Heritage Christian (CA) HS, Skyy has been exposed to the pro lifestyle since birth and knows the type of work it takes to make the next level. 

“The progress of Skyy’s development’s been unbelievable,” Arenas says. “The dedication that a kid has at this age is unreal. To see his development and his skill level at a peak right now is just unreal. There’s no surprise that he’s this talented at this age.”

During his freshman year, the 6-2, 175-pound PG led the Warriors to a 24-6 record and averaged 20 ppg, 7 rpg, 7 apg and 4 spg. He guided the Warriors to an Olympic League title and also earned Defensive MVP honors. 

“I actually like it better than scoring 30,” Skyy says about locking up. “I’ve had games where I’ve had 8 or 9 steals and those are the games that you know you shut someone down.”

This past season, Heritage Christian went 26-5 (7-1 in league) and Clark posted numbers of 24.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg and 4.4 apg. He was also named league MVP. 

“Skyy is definitely one of the elite guards in the country regardless of class,” Heritage Christian head coach Paul Tait says. “He’s a student of the game [and] he’s constantly watching film and getting better.”

He’s fielded offers from UCLA, Auburn, Arizona, Arizona State, Kansas, Memphis, Georgetown and Michigan. Clark also spent last summer with Strive for Greatness in its inaugural season on the EYBL circuit.  

“Having LeBron on the sideline is a different type of feeling,” he says. “Just knowing that he’s got your back.”

When he’s not hooping, his hobbies vary from fishing—“Fishing takes a lot of patience,” he says—to dancing and making TikTok videos.

When it comes to his game, he’s a basketball savant. He draws comparisons to Kyrie Irving for his explosiveness and handle, but he studies all kinds of players—both present and former—and doesn’t put a limit to what he can do on the hardwood. 

“I watch Lou Williams, John Stockton for the pick-and-roll, some of James Harden’s stuff,” he says. “I’m trying to get Kobe’s post stuff. I just take a lot of players—everything they’re good at—and try to add it to my game.”

With two more seasons of high school basketball left and the idea of the prep-to-pros rule being lifted, Skyy Clark’s ready to take his game to the next level. 

“It can always go back to square one,” he says, referencing his motivation. “That’s why I always put in as much work as I can and give it my best, because I know there’s someone out there that could be working harder than me.”

Drew Ruiz is an Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @DrewRuiz90.

Portraits by Ryan Young.





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Celtics’ Brad Stevens on Marcus Smart: “He’s been feeling good” – ProBasketballTalk


Boston’s Marcus Smart came forward and self-identified as having tested positive for the coronavirus.

Since then he’s been in self-quarantine, but he’s feeling good and is in good spirits, Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens said in a conference call with local media on Friday. Via NBC Sports Boston:

“He’s been feeling good,” Stevens said via conference call on Friday. “I’ve been checking in with him and everybody else has. I’ve seen him on conference calls a few times. He seems to be doing well…

“I’m proud of how he took the initiative to tell people that he had it and felt good,” Stevens said. “It’s a unique, unsettling time for everyone.”

Stevens, like many Americans, has been sheltering in place at home, spending more time with his family, learning how to use Zoom, and making sure his kids are keeping up on their distance learning homework.

Stevens said he’s also done a lot of the team evaluation work he usually saves for the off-season.

“What I’ve done is I’ve gone through here, while I’ve been at home, all of my typical postseason evaluations,” said Stevens. “Usually I wait until after the playoffs are over or after the season ends and do a series of film studies and those types of things, and stat studies and individual studies and those. But I’m actually knocking those out now in hopes that it helps us in what we need to do should we be able to resume play, and what we need to focus on when we get back to practice.

“It would be a unique situation to be off for as long as we’re going to be off to have to re-acclimate and re-condition. But you do already have a system in with those 15 guys and so it’s really an interesting thing because usually you have five back or six back or whatever when you go to a training-camp scenario. I’m sure everybody’s looking at different things and tweaks and things that were really good for them when they reviewed and analyzed their team and things that weren’t as good. And then other than that, just working on things I think will be applicable if we get back together.”

Hopefully Stevens will get to put those evaluations to use on the court sooner rather than later.

Killian Hayes was born in Florida. He grew up in France, where his father played professionally and his mother is from. Hayes has played for France in international competition. Professionally, he played for Ulm in Germany.

His next destination?

The NBA.

Hayes, via Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

“I am officially declaring for the NBA draft,” Hayes wrote via email. “I have sent in paperwork to the league office and I’m very excited.”

A 6-foot-5 point guard, Hayes is projected as a lottery pick.

Hayes accelerates rapidly. With the space he creates, he takes advantage with touch around the basket or – if the defense scrambles – passes to open teammates.

But Hayes is more quick than fast with sustained speed. He’s not an explosive athlete who finishes above the rim, either. He’s also very left-handed dominant. All that sometimes allows defenders to catch up.

Hayes’ size creates an intriguing defensive profile. He must improve as an outside shooter, though the 18-year-old appears to be on the right track.

Grizzlies owner Robert Pera has been, at different times, both overbearing and distant in Memphis.

What’s clear: Pera owns the Memphis Grizzlies.

But for how much longer?

Ronald Tillery, who previously covered the Grizzlies for The Commercial Appeal:

It’s not totally clear whether this means moving as in selling or relocating – or both.

Tillery has outspokenly criticized Pera. That doesn’t mean Tillery can’t report accurately on Pera. It’s just worth considering. This report will reflect poorly on Pera in Memphis.

Previous exploration of selling the team becomes particularly relevant now, as the NBA loses significant revenue due to its coronavirus-forced stoppage. Some owners could see this crisis as a time to get out while they’re so far ahead – especially those who need cash. (That’s less likely to apply to Pera, whose business is wireless communications.)

Memphis is one of the NBA’s smallest markets. So, there has been plenty of speculation about the Grizzlies moving to Seattle or elsewhere. But their arena lease creates complications. That said, leases can be broken – especially with nearly a year of negotiation.

Doris Burke, beloved NBA analyst for ESPN, tested positive for coronavirus.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Thankfully, Burke said she’s now doing well.

She said she began feeling symptoms while working the Mavericks-Nuggets game on March 11, the day the NBA suspended its season. After consulting with her family, she decided to get tested because of the large number of people she interacted with. Burke received her diagnosis just two days ago, after symptoms subsided.

A few days ago, in response to a Donald Trump press conference, Burke tweeted:

Fauci, who says Trump heeds the doctor’s advice, has been busy with other things – including getting interviewed by Stephen Curry to educate the public about coronavirus.

Now, Burke is doing her part to increase understanding of coronavirus. The podcast is worth a listen.

The NBA is reportedly committed to finishing this season, which is currently paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.

What structure will the rest of the season take? That’s a difficult question.

But apparently momentum is building for centralizing play in Las Vegas.

Jabari Young of CNBC:

Las Vegas has emerged as the best location to resume the season, according to league executives.

The NBA could decide to cancel the remainder of its regular season and create a play-in tournament for lower-seeded teams to enter the postseason. The league could then set up a best-of-five series for the first round, before moving to a one-and-done tournament to determine the two teams that will play in the NBA Finals, which would also be a best-of-five, people familiar with the planning said.

The tournament and NBA Finals would be held in Las Vegas at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion, where the league hosts its annual Summer League events.

This leads to several questions:

  • Can the NBA keep players and everyone else involved from contracting coronavirus? If COVID-19 infiltrates this operation, it’d undermine everything.
  • Could fans attend these games? Significant gate revenue is being left on the table. Fans could theoretically have their temperature checked as they enter. However, presumably, these games would be held in smaller arenas only because fans wouldn’t be present.
  • How would fans feel about, not only an abridged postseason, but a strangely structured one? The series going best-of-five, best-of-one, best-of-one, best-of-five is not a natural progression. Making the Finals – the most meaningful series – longer is logical. Presumably, the first round would be longer because that’s the round with the most series. It’d be a way to increase revenue.
  • What type of shape would players be in? LeBron James warned against jumping straight into the playoffs without a regular season to tune up.
  • What would happen with local-TV contracts? Those are a big reason to finish the regular season.
  • How would a play-in tournament affect the draft order? At least the league, pushing for a permanent play-in tournament, has already considered that. But this situation would come with the added wrinkle of a canceled finish to the regular season, teams playing a varying number of games.
  • How would owners and players split revenue of the entire season? Canceling the rest of the regular season would seemingly allow the league to invoke force majeure and reduce salaries. But this new structure – along with everything else – would have to be negotiated by owners and players.

That’s a lot to answer. Still, this might be the best option.

There’s an obvious appeal to finishing the season in a centralized location. It’s probably the fastest way to resume play – and generate quick cash.

Extending the season longer could interrupt future seasons. It might be better to milk whatever revenue is possible from this cursed season and just move on.

An abbreviated postseason at a neutral site is nobody’s ideal. But that it’s even a possibility shows how dire this situation has gotten.





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ESPN’s Doris Burke symptom free after positive COVID-19 test


ESPN NBA analyst Doris Burke has received a positive diagnosis for COVID-19 but says she is symptom-free more than two weeks after her initial concerns of an illness.

Burke addressed her diagnosis with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Friday’s episode of The Woj Pod. She told Wojnarowski she was tested March 17 but did not find out until eight days later, on Wednesday, that she had a positive diagnosis.

The delay gave Burke time to process that she could be positive for the virus, she said.

“I started to believe, even though my symptoms did not seem to line up with the typical symptoms, I believed, given the nature of my profession, the number of people I encounter, that I did in fact have exposure to the virus,” Burke said.

Burke said she felt her first symptom March 11 — the same day the NBA shut down play after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Burke was working the Denver NuggetsDallas Mavericks game for ESPN, and she said she noticed feeling tired during lunch with her broadcast crew.

“Man, I am so tired right now and my head is pounding,” Burke recalled thinking. “And looking back, those were my symptoms. And we’ve heard so much about shortness of breath, fever, tightness in your chest, chills, body aches, etc. … That really was my primary symptom throughout this was this extraordinary fatigue.”

She told Wojnarowski the fatigue was so bad that she could not be out of bed for more than five minutes from March 14 to 17.

Burke acknowledged feeling a moral dilemma about being tested amid a shortage of tests in the United States, but she wanted to know if she could be exposing others in her family, particularly her daughter and her daughter’s fiance. She also said she tried to reach out to people she had been in contact with to let them know she wasn’t feeling well.

She said she is now symptom-free, telling Wojnarowski, “I’m so incredibly thankful to be feeling well.” She said she continues to keep a safe distance from others but is glad to no longer be spending all her time limited to her bedroom.

Burke has covered basketball for ESPN since 1991. She was named a full-time NBA game analyst before the 2017-18 season, becoming the first woman to hold that role, and received the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame



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With sports on pause, coaches put the well-being of their student-athletes first


SAN FRANCISCO — Morgan Coppoc finds herself in a situation similar to so many other college athletes across the country, hundreds of miles away from campus and lost without her routine and her tennis teammates at Georgia.

Still, she is regularly hearing from her coaches for individual check-ins as well as receiving updates for the entire team, including the latest details about the coronavirus pandemic. The school counseling office also keeps in contact with Coppoc at home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to offer sessions by phone that she would have typically attended in person.

“This whole situation has been hard to process and still feels so surreal,” Coppoc said. “I have been experiencing many emotions across the spectrum. First, I was in denial. It was impossible to accept the gravity of what was happening. I even refused to unpack my clothes once I was back home in Oklahoma. I was scared. Now I’m 13 hours from campus and my closest friends, teammates and coaches.”

VOTE: Help pick the greatest March Madness moment of all time 

Leaders in college athletics are doing their best to adapt in real time to help athletes like Coppoc. Coaches are making efforts to keep teams emotionally close when they’ve suddenly been scattered across the country — and in many cases the world. Regular video calls and group texts have replaced face-to-face interactions as they embrace new ways to help young athletes cope with a crisis that has also taken away the sports they loved, the very thing that defined many of them.

Coppoc’s coach at Georgia, Jeff Wallace, reached out recently on the team’s group chat platform. “I just said something like, ‘Hope everyone’s doing well, staying safe, life as we know it has changed dramatically’ and encouraged everybody to keep working out, hydrate, get your rest and practice social distancing,” Wallace said.

“Never thought I would advise anyone to stay away from others. And ‘if anyone needs anything or has any questions, please reach out.’ Finally, ‘It would be great to hear how, what everyone is doing in short periodical updates, that would be awesome.’”

At Arkansas, men’s basketball coach Eric Musselman and his counterparts in other sports are keeping tabs on every student-athlete through a detailed spreadsheet — when someone is on the move, they know it.

“I think for all of us in college athletics the No. 1 focus always has to be on the student’s well-being,” Musselman said. “All coaches in every sport want to win, but the bottom line in all of this is these guys are 17- to 21-year-olds in a prime part of their lives when they’re still trying to figure out the world. We have an obligation, whether in season, out of season, or post-playing career remaining a big part of their lives, being there for them.”

Musselman has always counted on impromptu, in-person opportunities to get a read on how someone is doing.

PODCAST: Villanova’s Jay Wright has a simple message for his team — take a break and study

“That’s why we’re FaceTiming a lot so we can look in their eyes. The biggest thing I’m missing is even in the offseason they come up and sit on the couch in my office,” Musselman said. “That interaction is gone and that’s probably the most vital interaction we have all year.”

Communication specialists and mental health professionals are encouraging coaches and others to allow these young men and women to go through the stages of grieving as needed as they adjust after the unexpected disappearance of the seasons they trained for and the camaraderie of daily practices and team meals. Providing comfort and security is important to ensure people know where to turn for a sense of some normalcy.

“That’s general human nature but I think it is heightened with young people,” said Rick Dickson, the former Tulane athletic director who guided the school’s athletic department through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “They’re so invested, especially in sport, their time, their commitment, their passion, all of that, and when that is rocked to the core, they need the certainty and stability they can turn to and depend on. That’s their source for so many things.”

Dickson scrambled his 16 teams after the hurricane to four other campuses for a semester so they could stay safe — three spots in Texas and at LSU. He set up a task force in each location and regular mental-health checks on the athletes and coaches to see who might need professional help.

It cannot be a “one-time here’s what we’re going to do,” he said.

Dickson also shared his experiences with the NCAA as it established guidelines on mental health and moving forward when things change by the minute because of COVID-19.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can experience severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Betsy Butterick, a San Diego-based communication specialist and a former college basketball player and coach, recently held a free webinar to help coaches and administrators develop strategies for the days ahead. She encouraged the roughly 500 participants to identify forms of self-care and how that looks for each person and noted “when in doubt, start with gratitude.”

AWARDS: Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu is AP women’s player of the year

With the absence of traditional senior sendoffs or end-of-season banquets that allow everyone to be together perhaps one final time, she said coaches can get creative: establish new team awards, hold virtual celebrations, share a book the whole team can read and discuss, or let players prepare a practice plan or new drill.

She was among those who said athletes may go through something comparable to the grieving process.

“It is very similar to grieving,” said longtime University of San Francisco baseball coach Nino Giarratano. “We are in contact daily trying to help them academically, athletically and keeping their spirits up.”

Musselman is trying to keep things light amid all the uncertainty. Last week, he posted a video of himself running around, clapping and hollering while coaching drills in an empty gym. In another, he held a news conference with nobody there.

His players remain his top priority.

Senior Jimmy Whitt receives daily calls from Arkansas assistant coach Clay Moser. And when Whitt returns home to Columbia, Missouri, in the coming days, his coaches will monitor the trip until he has safely made it.

“It just shows you that it goes beyond basketball,” Whitt said, “beyond me.”



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Pooh Jeter Describes Returning to a New World


The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) intends to resume play soon, becoming one of the first leagues that was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic to return to action. After initially setting April 15 as a target restart date, the CBA delayed to early Maybut not before American players flew back to China and went into immediate quarantine.

When the season does eventually pick up again, the CBA will serve as a blueprint for the rest of the world’s professional sports leagues. The plan is to compete in empty arenas and follow an adjusted schedule. SLAM will be getting periodic updates from players in China, including Eugene “Pooh” Jeter.

Jeter is a guard for the Fujian Sturgeons. He’s been in the CBA for eight years now following a long career in Europe and one stint with the Sacramento Kings. Here, he describes his recent journey from Los Angeles to Fujian, what it looks like on the ground there, the rules of his quarantine and his outlook for the future.

By Pooh Jeter, as told to Alex Squadron:

Wassup, SLAM family. Grace, peace and blessings to all. My name is Pooh Jeter. Welcome to my “Diary from China.” Live from Fujian. This is my eighth season playing in the CBA. These next couple of months, I will be giving you information about my whole experience dealing with COVID-19. Are you ready to keep your butt in the house? Are you ready to worship God and not worry? Are you ready to start focusing and bettering yourself? I hope so, because right now, we see that our lives are way bigger than sports.

OK, about the last week. So I flew from LA to Taipei a week ago. First of all, LAX was empty. That was kind of weird. My flight was at 11:45 pm and I pulled up to the airport at like, 10:50 [laughs]. For me to leave [my house] around the time I left and get to the airport at that time was crazy. Everybody got their face mask on and this and that. Everybody got that look on their face when we’re going from LA to Taipei. I knocked out the whole flight. I get to Taepei, I’m looking for a face mask because now I’m going to China. All the face masks were sold out in LA. You couldn’t get no face mask, no hand sanitizer, nothing. I go into a little store [in the Taipei airport], they had the face masks. I got two of those.

Now from Taipei to Shanghai, it was like, OK, this is getting real. When we landed in Shanghai, we had to wait on the plane for like 30 minutes. They were calling different people that were sitting in the back, so everybody’s looking like, What are they doing? Everybody’s alert and on-guard. [After getting off the plane], we had to go through this tunnel to go downstairs to get on the bus. Now we’re all on the bus, everybody got their gloves on, keeping their distance, don’t want to touch anything. We get off the bus on our way to the baggage claim and there’s a huge line. People got their whole suits on, face masks, like Star Wars gear. It’s really serious. We landed at, like, 12:00 pm. My flight to Quanzhou wasn’t until 8:00 pm. So I’m in the airport for, like, eight hours. This whole processthey are walking around, spraying stuff in the air, everybody’s asking questions. When it gets to the time to get interviewed and all that, I sat down, they asked me all type of questions: Where have I been? Have I been in contact with people who have the virus? It was a whole interview process that I had to do, like, three times. Everybody had yellow stickers. I heard you can get green, yellow or red stickers. Green stickers probably means that wherever you came from, nobody has the virus. Everybody from the states got a yellow sticker because that shows you came from an environment where people have the virus. I don’t know what red means, but I have a yellow sticker on my passport.

I get my bag and then go up these stairs, it’s probably like 3:00 pm at this point now. Everybody coming internationally, we’re all upstairs in this room. Everybody’s separated. They’re calling your name, this and that, so they can take you to get your ticket. At 6:00 pm, it’s my turn to get my ticket. I’m in a different terminal. I have to go to Terminal 2. I get in this van. Inside, there was plastic everywhere. Everything was just covered in plastic. When I tell you they ain’t playing, they ain’t playing at all.

I get to the ticket counter, somebody has to escort me inside. Once I got through the security part[there were] more questionsthen I go upstairs. By this time, it’s 7:30 pm, and I’m like, Yo, can I at least eat? I didn’t really have a chance to eat at all. 

I fly into my city. Bro, the same process again. I land there probably around 9-10 something. I went through the same process. Interviews, signed papers. Where have you been? You did that in Shanghai, you didn’t do that here, so where you been at? They do temperature checks all the time because they want to see who has a fever or not. I’m waiting at the airport, answering questions, [getting my] temperature checked. I couldn’t go to where I was living before, I had to go to a random hotel for two weeks. All of my stuff is at my other spot. I get into the van [to the hotel], there’s plastic everywhere again. I get to the hotel, you already know [what happened]. The process—where you been at? [It was done] by doctors at the hotel. Wherever you go, you have to make sure you give them your information. They’re not playing. They’re not playing about this. It seems like they got the world on their shoulders. It started here, so now they got to make sure that they’re doing their part so other countries can know how to survive.

Somebody from my team was able to leave me some McDonald’s. That Big Mac had no chance [laughs]. I [entered the hotel] through the back. I don’t even remember what the lobby looked like because they had stuff blocked off. I went to the elevator, went straight to my room and have been in my room since.

I can’t leave my room. I’m really in quarantine. I can see what’s outside through my window but there’s no view at all. I can’t go, like, in the hallway. I think nobody has really taken the risk to go down the hall or get on the elevator. We’re supposed to do this for two weeks straight. I’m on day nine. I have five more.

You know what’s so crazy about playing in China, I’ve been here for eight years and I don’t do much. Outside of going to the gym or going to get something to eat, I’m in my room all day. I don’t really go sightseeing or go anywhere. I’m in my room or at the gym or going to get something to eat. But now I get food delivered to me, so the only thing I’m missing is the gym. I get breakfast, lunch and dinneryou just got to order before certain timesand I have a lot of snacks.

I don’t watch TV at home, so I’m really catching up on all my shows. I just watched the last season of Snowfall, now about to go into Tiger King. I’ve been talking to family, eating, reading, doing my own workouts that my trainers gave me because they gave me some bands. I’m, like, running in place [too]. I get my temperature checked in the morning and at night. I open up a window for a few hours to get some air in. And that’s it. It’s really just time to reflect, time for reading, time to execute so many other things outside of basketball. Ty Lawson, my teammate, is a couple of doors down from me. I haven’t seen him though.

I found out through my agent [about the season being pushed back to May]. And a couple of my teammates and some players in the CBA. You know, the word keeps on spreading. When I saw it, I was like, Here we go. When it comes to this league in China, nothing really surprises me. I’ve seen a lot of stuff. But also, I’m looking at it like, coming through this quarantine, if we would’ve started April 15, there probably would’ve been so many injuries. Doing two weeks of quarantine into practicing for a week then going into four games a week, you know how crazy that is? I also looked at it as a cool way of getting back into game shape.

I end [my quarantine] next week, so I’ll have time. But we’re going to find something new out everyday. With the virus or with the season or who knows. We just don’t know. You just got to go with the flow of things. I’m already in a situation where I really can’t do anything. Man, things happen for a reason. It’s not just me, there are other players that flew over here as well. Now they reported that starting tomorrow, no foreigners can come into China. So we got to see how long that’s going to be or what the league’s going to do. When I tell you things are out of our control and just control what you can control, that’s really all we can do. That’s the whole waiting game. Who knows? I got to make sure that I’m mentally and physically in shape.

There are so many ways to look at it. One thing for me is, Dang, I’m not there [in LA] to be with my wife and my kids. That’s the only thing because everything else is closed so it’s not like I’m kicking it with homies or I’m in the gym working out. It’s really that valuable time being able to physically hug my family. Other than that, I’d be doing the same thing.

Pooh Jeter also runs Laced, the only black-owned shoe store in Los Angeles with a Nike account. The retail location is closed due to coronavirus but the online store remains open. Follow Jeter on Instagram and Twitter.

Alex Squadron is an Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @asquad510.

Photos via Getty.





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