Augusta University men’s basketball team was on the road on its way to the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament back in March when news broke that officials were calling off the rest of the season because of the coronavirus.
Head coach Dip Metress said closure is always hard at the end of a season. But not being able to play those last handful of games was especially difficult, and with only one senior on the team, Rafael Monteiro, they were affected differently.
“We were able to do pictures with Rafa in his cap and gown on campus so it was an abbreviated celebration. … In that 24-hour span (in March), a lot changed,” Metress said in June.
Metress is entering his 25th season of coaching overall and his 17th at Augusta University. He recently told Raysean Ricks, host of In the Wild podcast, that he’s had to do a lot of pivoting to get back to coaching this semester.
“There’s a term in coaching called pivoting, which means turning a lot … it’s very difficult,” Metress said. “Everything has been in flux. As players, they like schedules; as a coach, we like schedules. It’s very challenging right now. We’re happy to be back in the gym.”
Metress and his staff are dealing with rules and restrictions that coincide with COVID-19. Coaches must wear masks at all times during practice. Players don’t have to wear masks when practicing but do as soon as practice is over.
“We just want to play … my assistant had a great line, ‘We’ll play wrapped in bubble wrap,’” he added on the podcast. “We’re trying to make the best of this situation.”
Coach’s keys to the season
1. Keep our focus due to the uncertainty of everything going on around us in the world with the pandemic.
2. Acclimate the new players into a strong core of returning players.
3. Have the ability to guard the 3-point shot with the players that will be on the floor.
“The key date is the date we are practicing,” Metress said. “It is not about what is next; it is what is about now.”
When it comes to the games, the season will start with six nonconference games in December and January, including two nonconference games against Peach Belt Conference rival Lander (Dec. 2 and Dec. 20) and Emmanuel (Georgia) on Dec. 12 and Jan. 2.
Conference games begin Jan. 6 at Columbus State. The Jaguars will play area rival USC Aiken on the road Jan. 27 and at home Feb. 17.
Players to watch
Troy Cracknell, senior, 6 feet, 4 inches, guard: He played in all 29 games and started in all but two games. Averaged 12.8 ppg and 4.3 rpg and was second on the team in 3-point FG made (59).
Miguel Arnold, junior, 5 feet, 10 inches, guard: Ranked first on the team in made 3-pointers for the season (79). Averaged 13 ppg and 1.8 assists per game and scored in double figures 20 times last season.
Shaun Moss, senior, 5 feet, 10 inches, guard: Played in 22 games and averaged 2.5 ppg and 0.7 rpg.
Jerod Carrier, senior, 6 feet, 2 inches, guard: Played in six games off the bench last season.
Note to fans
The university announced Nov. 24 that outside fans will not be permitted to attend the men’s or women’s basketball games through at least Jan. 5.
“We are extremely disappointed in not allowing our tremendous fan base of Jaguar Nation to attend in person our non-conference men’s and women’s basketball home games,” said Clint Bryant, Director of Athletics. “It is our hope that we will be able to have home fan attendance by the start of the PBC regular season on Jan. 6. We will keep everyone posted on our ability to make that happen.
“We are very excited to announce that Chad Cook and SUV TV will again provide live coverage of our contests. We are very fortunate to have the high-quality coverage that is provided through this relationship. As we all know, these are unprecedented times and your support and patience is much appreciated. Go Jags!”
View the men’s basketball schedule.