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Daily Journal
     November 11, 2020      #72-316 KDJ

BASKETBALL: Bradley-Bourbonnais aligns with SWSC,

By Cody Smith

Bradley-Bourbonnais basketball and the rest of its SouthWest Suburban Conference opponents plan to halt the basketball season that was to begin with practice Nov. 16.

The news comes after Bradley-Bourbonnais athletic director Mike Kohl and some of the Boilers’ conference opponents made the decision collectively. No new start date was given, but Kohl said the hope is to finish the season before the spring, when games begin in March.

“It was pretty much a conference decision,” Kohl said. “The challenge is we definitely don’t want to move basketball to the spring because we don’t kids to have to choose between sports.”

Kohl said the main reasons for the decision were possible liability issues and not knowing how many of their scheduled opponents plan to play.

“I think liability is a big reason why we want to push the pause button for a second,” Kohl said. “Obviously, the governor telling us to slow down and the [Illinois High School Association] saying we can play is conflicting information, which makes for a challenge.”

Given the misleading information from both the Gov. JB Pritzker and the IHSA, Kohl said he plans to monitor the situation regularly with hopes basketball can be lowered back from higher-risk to medium-risk. If that situation indeed can be resolved in the coming weeks, Kohl said he believes he can get his teams playing by the new year.

“Since basketball has moved to high risk, it has completely shut us down,” Kohl said. “So, if it’s moved back to medium risk, I think we can make some headway and try [to] play basketball. … We aren’t going to move forward with the basketball season until we have a better feel for what the COVID-19 situation looks like in the area.”

As a result, both the boys and girls basketball programs will revert to having two one-hour no-contact skill days per week in the Bradley-Bourbonnais gyms for all levels.

“I think the biggest challenge for us is the no-contact stuff for our open gyms because we’ve been playing some 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 stuff with masks on,” Kohl said. “And now we are going back to shooting drills, dribbling drills and no contact in the gym.”

This could benefit the Boilermakers basketball programs, as both teams are under new leadership with Joe Lighfoot Jr. taking the reins of the boys team and Liz Bart taking over at the helm for the girls squad.

“I think this will be beneficial for us,” Lightfoot said. “Obviously, me being a new coach to the program and implementing a new system and the guys just getting used to the standards that the coaching staff has for them — the longer they get to operate within our system, the better. And so for them to get an extra month and a half or so where they get to dive into the things that we’ve been putting in and they can correct some errors and clean up some details, I think it will benefit us really well for the start of the season.”

Although this wasn’t the ideal situation for a first-year head coach, Lightfoot fully supports Kohl and the rest of Bradley-Bourbonnais administrators’ decision to pause basketball operations.

“I completely support our administration’s decision,” Lightfoot Jr. said. “Just like all of the kids, I’m eager to play, but we want to keep the student health and safety first as well as everyone else in the community. We don’t want to put them in an environment that is harmful to them or others.”

Moving forward, Coach Lightfoot Jr. plans to focus on developing his players’ skills because there are no more live scrimmages.

“We have to continue to pound the pavement,” Lighfoot said. “We need to keep doing the things that we’ve been doing, but, obviously, we have to scale back some, as there are no more live scrimmages. So, we will move toward our skills development stuff like ball handling, shooting, passing and trying to get better each day.”

On the girls side, first-year head coach Bart said she also plans to move toward skills development after already using all of her team’s contact days.

“We’ve used all 16 of our contact days that we wanted to use originally, and so we felt really good about that,” Bart said. “… When it comes to season time, I think all teams are kind of in the same boat. Most teams are just doing their best to have the girls have a season, but we also want to make sure we put their safety above everything else at this point.”

Usually, telling high school student-athletes their season is up in the air results in disappointment; however, because of the all the changes in the past eight month, Bart’s team knew it was a real possibility and wasn’t shocked.

“My kids are kind of used to it at this point — just being on their toes, adjusting and being flexible, and that’s all I can really ask for,” Bart said. “They have been absolutely great in just being bought in and ... making those adjustments on the fly and being flexible with their schedules and me and whatever COVID-19 throws at us at this point.”

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