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Martinez: As athletes wait, how are other states handling prep hoops?

High school sports

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: January 5, 2021, 7:28pm

Tom Petty once sang “The waiting is the hardest part.”

High school athletes in Washington are learning that the hard way.

It seems that every time the executive board of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association meets, the end result is more waiting.

The board met on Dec. 15 and decided to wait three weeks before making decisions on resuming high school sports, hoping the additional time would provide better clarity on how to proceed.

It turns out that those three weeks weren’t quite enough, as the board delayed its scheduled Monday night meeting to Wednesday night, because Gov. Jay Inslee was set to announce new reopening protocols on Tuesday.

That new plan, which now focuses more on reopening the state by geographical regions instead of individual counties, will go into effect next week.

But it is unclear how high school sports fit into the state’s new reopening guidelines. That’s a question for which the WIAA needs an answer before deciding on a plan for moving forward.

Given that, it feels unlikely that high school sports will resume on Feb. 1, the start date for the WIAA’s current return-to-play guidelines. But Feb. 22, a date that WIAA Executive Board president Tim Thomsen last month suggested as a possible alternative, could provide the necessary time window.

That’s what the WIAA Executive Board will need to figure out Wednesday night.

So, again, we wait. In the meantime, I thought it might be good to look at what other states are doing regarding high school basketball.

As of this week, 27 states in the country are playing high school basketball in one form or another.

Those states include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Montana just joined the list last weekend.

Kentucky opened its season Monday, although not all schools are ready to play yet.

The same is true in Maryland, where some schools opened the basketball season Monday. But schools in Montgomery County, the state’s largest county, have canceled the high school basketball season.

In Virginia, some schools opened the season Dec. 21, with additional parts of the state opening their seasons each week since. There are other parts of the state that still need to reach COVID-19 benchmarks to begin play.

In North Carolina, while private schools began playing last month, public schools opened their seasons this week.

Those states are playing, but it is not life as normal. Some are dealing with a shortage of officials. Others have spectator limitations in place. Still other states, like North Carolina and Wisconsin, have requirements that players must wear masks during games.

“I’d honestly compare it to just being out of shape,” said Zac Johnson of River Falls, Wisc., explained mask wearing to the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press. “Even though our team is all in shape, like we’ve been running and getting up and down before the season started, but just with the masks, it just makes me feel really tired and out of shape.”

But Johnson added: “Even though it sucks wearing a mask, at least we’re out there playing, and we get our senior season.”

Fourteen other states have plans to begin playing high school basketball games by Feb. 1 – Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode and West Virginia. But as we’ve learned from this pandemic, plans can change.

Stay informed on what is happening in Clark County, WA and beyond for only

California and New Mexico both have plans that will begin basketball in March. Oregon flipped its calendar last month and put traditional winter sports, like basketball, to the end of its calendar in May, figuring that outdoor sports stand a better shot of starting sooner.

And that’s better than other states where the high school basketball season is currently in limbo.

Nevada had a plan to begin basketball practices last weekend with games starting Jan. 14. But Nevada’s governor has not given the green light for basketball to start. Schools in Clark County, Nev., which includes all of Las Vegas, have made the decision to scrub the winter prep sports season, focusing on sports that can be played outdoors.

While the state of Hawaii has only canceled its state championships for basketball, the season has not set a start date yet. The Interscholastic League of Honolulu has canceled its entire basketball season.

In New York, Vermont and Illinois, as well as the District of Columbia, the basketball season has been put on hold indefinitely.

Which approach will Washington take in bringing back high school sports? Hopefully, we will have a better idea by Thursday morning.

Until then, we wait.

Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538, tim.martinez@columbian.com or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.