Pandemic creates tough situations for all

Courtesy Geneseo AthleticsSUNY Geneseo men’s basketball coach Steve Minton talks with his players during a time-out. Minton feels awful for all the seniors that have been affected by the recent pandemic.

GENESEO — Geneseo State men’s basketball coach Steve Minton would trade all of his near 300 career basketball victories for a chance to properly say goodbye to this year’s seniors.

With the cancellation of the spring semester at Geneseo, due to COVID-19, Minton and his successful coaching staff over the past 20 seasons has been put through a extremely difficult task of not only saying goodbye to their two seniors — Terence Rogers and Sean Crowley — but also hitting the recruiting trail for potential recruits.

“It has been tough not being able to say goodbye to my seniors,” Minton said. “I can’t give them a hug and properly tell them how much they have meant to the program and how much I will miss them.”

While not sharing those moments that has been a damaging hit for Minton, he also finds himself in unchartered waters with no recruiting trips allowed in the past six weeks.

“Also our basketball recruiting is losing the ability to evaluate prospects and find new prospects because of no AAU season and probably no summer camps,” he added.

Make no mistake about it, ask any college coach the importance of recruiting and they will say just how valuable the spring season is to them.

Minton recalls the first day the news broke.

“I was away recruiting when this started happening down in Westchester County,” Minton said. “The first week everything was happening so fast. Hockey, track and swimming teams were still competing and hockey had a great chance to win a national championship. Spring sports contests were being canceled but no one knew the pandemic was going to blow up like it did. The most important thing initially, was our spring sports teams and our winter teams that were still competing. In terms of basketball specifically, for me and my staff the first seven-to-ten days was mostly about staying in touch with our team and maintaining contact with recruits with texts and phone calls. That was made more difficult because spring break was beginning and players had left campus or were preparing to leave campus. Basketball was secondary. Beginning later in March, we really focused on recruiting for the classes of 2021 and 2022. This has had to be done in different ways. I have done more e-mailing and calling with high school coaches in different regions than usual. I have watched more video than usual also. Spring and summer are major evaluation periods for D-III basketball because of AAU tournaments and summer camps. This is our chance to see kids from down state and Long Island. With no AAU and likely no camps, identifying and evaluating prospective student athletes has become very different and very difficult.”

Local college basketball coaches are known for putting many miles on their vehicles during the spring recruiting season and Minton is no different. The veteran Blue Knights’ coach is starting to get a strong grasp on the difficulties of hitting the recruiting trail when that trail is closed for business. But he also understands that other coaches are having the same challenges but he fully understands the seriousness of this pandemic and is extremely sensitive to his prospects.

“Every 2021 prospect is in the same boat,” Minton said. “Recruiting players from downstate or an hour away isn’t that different during this crisis. We still can talk, text and e-mail prospects at any time. We have a lot of 2021 recruits that we had evaluated earlier. We are putting a lot of energy and effort into those young men while still trying to identify other prospects. Another variable is that every prospect has their own challenges due to COVID-19. The first thing you have to find out when speaking with a prospect for the first time is how COVID-19 has effected them, their family and their friends. You have to be sensitive to what is going on in their lives through all of this.”

With six of his seven top scorers returning next fall Minton stayed on course the same way as he always has by continuing his strong tradition of recruiting and while next fall is still on schedule, the following two years’ recruiting class could be affected.

“Having a younger team this past season and returning most of our scoring and minutes played never effected anything with this recruiting class,” Minton said. “Our recruiting for this year’s class was completed when the pandemic hit. Our incoming class has not changed and they all plan on being here in the fall. I think the pandemic could have a greater effect on the next two recruiting classes, 2021 and 2022.”

This pandemic has really taken a toll on every senior, in college or high school, whether they played sports or not says Minton.

“I feel worst for seniors and spring sport athletes,” Minton said. “We still had a few winter sport teams still playing and my heart goes out to them as well. I feel bad for any senior, whether they were an athlete or not. I feel terrible for high school seniors too. To lose out on your last two months of your time on a college or high school campus is awful. Losing out on field trips, graduation parties, and proms are awful. Those last weeks are supposed to be fun and exciting, not filled with worry and anxiety.”

While Minton has been an annual attendee to each and every commencement ceremony at Geneseo State since the turn of the century, he knows this year just won’t be the same.

And he just wishes he had two more hugs to give.

— The Geneseo State Senior Send-Off Tribute to the Class of 2020 website will go live at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, May 16. The site won’t be visible until then, so check back on the day.

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