Where were you on March 12th when the sports world started to shut down? I was in Brooklyn, New York for the A10 tournament as a student basketball manager for George Mason Basketball. We had just beaten Saint Joseph’s to advance to day two of the tournament and we’re playing the best basketball of our season. The events after our win were like a chain reaction, as suddenly, COVID-19 began to spread in the sports world.
That night the Rudy Gobert COVID-19 diagnosis made headlines, and the NBA suspended its season. The next morning at breakfast before our game, the Donovan Mitchell COVID-19 diagnosis made headlines as well. The events that followed on that day March 12th will forever have a lasting impact on me.
The next thing I know I’m changing into my gameday attire about 30 mins until we load up the bus and head out to the Barclays Center for our game against Saint Bonaventure at 2:30 PM. Suddenly, the Big Ten canceled its postseason tournament. I started to have a sick feeling in my stomach as notifications started coming in as every basketball conference started to cancel their postseason tournaments because of COVID-19.
I knew the inevitable announcement was going to come and around noon the notification popped up on my phone the A10 tournament was canceled.
My senior season suddenly ended and everyone at the hotel was at a loss for words. We met as a team with head coach Dave Paulsen one last time, packed our bags, loaded the bus and left for home still shocked over what just happened. What did this mean for the future? What did it mean for the team? And what did it mean for the star players who were counting on the season to help launch the next steps of their careers? I spoke with two players to find out.
Javon Greene a junior guard for George Mason Basketball who averaged a career-high 13.8 PPG this season spoke about what he was doing when his college basketball season came to a sudden halt. “I was with my teammates, Jordan Miller and Bahaïde HaÏdara, in their room when I saw the power five conferences cancel and started to wonder if they cancel the A10 tournament.”
It was around noon that Greene got the bad news, just before he was set to go workout before the game, the A10 tournament was canceled and his season was over. “I was just in shock really,” Greene said.
The next thing you know, Greene called his parents, attended the team meeting called by the coaches to address the situation and booked a flight home to Georgia not knowing what was next for him.
Usually, under normal circumstances, the grind to play college sports means athletes are usually busy the entire year with very few days off. Normally right now, Greene would be in the middle of spring workouts with his teammates preparing for the upcoming season.
However, for the first time since high school due to COVID-19, Greene was staying at home for an unknown extended period of time. “I’m going from being a very busy person dealing with outdoor activities and working out to now staying inside it was a big transition for me at first,” said Greene about adjusting to COVID-19 life. In order to deal with this transition and to keep himself in basketball shape, Greene started to go to any gym that hasn’t been shut down by COVID-19 to workout.
That is one of the key things about basketball is keeping yourself in rhythm and Greene was playing some of the best basketball of his college career before COVID-19 hit. With COVID-19 affecting Greene and keeping him at home without on-campus offseason workouts, Greene knows it will take some time to get himself back into a rhythm. “Me having to get back into things not picking off where I left off it’s going to be a little challenging and different,” said Greene.
Being used to that usual college athlete schedule of waking up early, in-person classes, workouts, and lifting, Greene’s days have definitely changed because of COVID-19. “I go to sleep later now I wake up later now everything pushed back for me now,” said Greene.
With the upcoming 2020-2021 college basketball season being his senior year, while there’s still a long way to go before the season starts in November Greene definitely has some long term concerns about COVID-19 impact. “If I was to say I wouldn’t want to play my senior year without any fans or a shorten season I rather the NCAA just cancel it and I have another year of eligibility I don’t want no interruptions to it,” said Greene.
For Greene’s fellow teammate junior wing, Gonar Mar, the date March 12th was an unexpected farewell to George Mason Basketball. The day before Mar came off the bench and delivered eight points, six rebounds and played great defense to help George Mason win 77-70 against Saint Joe’s to advance to play Saint Bonaventure the next round of the A10 tournament. The performance was praised by head coach Dave Paulsen during the team meetings after the game and Mar was playing his best basketball at the right time of the season for an undermanned George Mason team.
Little did Mar know at the time that was his last game being a George Mason Patriot. COVID-19 would hit the sports world quickly and the very next day around noon the A10 tournament was suddenly canceled. “We were getting ready to leave for the Barclays Center I had seen on social media and TV that other conferences had already ended their tournaments and for ours to get canceled was surprising”, said Mar. After a flight home to Minnesota, Mar now faced a life-changing decision to make in the middle of a global pandemic.
On April 3rd, that decision came when Mar announced he would be entering the NCAA transfer portal, leaving George Mason Basketball after three years. Unlike the usual normal transfer process due to the circumstances of COVID-19, universities across the country were shutting down to try and help stop the spread of the virus. Just like for other transfers throughout the country, Mar was unable to travel and conduct in-person visits with interested universities recruiting him.
On top of that, the NCAA was supposed to conduct a vote on a one-time transfer waiver that allowed transfers like Mar to be eligible immediately and not sit out for a year. The vote was pushed back to next year because of COVID-19.
These circumstances caused by COVID-19 played a big part in Mar’s decision to commit to Northern Iowa where he will sit out the upcoming 2020-2021 season. “Me personally it was going to be big for me to choose a school that’s close to me since I’m not going to travel with COVID-19 going on,” said Mar about his decision to stay close to home and committing to Northern Iowa.
Despite not knowing when COVID-19 will clear up, Mar has been adjusting to his new life at home by staying in shape and getting ready for whenever basketball returns. “I’ve been running lifting and doing simple bodyweight exercises in just doing whatever I can to stay in shape,” said Mar.
Unfortunately for Mar, he has been limited to just doing those simple activities because having access to a local basketball court in his hometown is not an option right now because of COVID-19. “All the hoops around the city the government took the rims off of them,” said Mar about not being to go shoot and do some usual basketball workouts.
For now, both Mar and Greene remain patient dealing with the circumstances of this global pandemic. However, March 12th, 2020 will forever be a date that both will remember for the rest of their lives.
By Ashkan Motamedi