Charlotte’s men’s basketball team turned many heads in the 2019-20 season. With a record of 16-13, the Niners entered the Conference USA basketball tournament as fourth seed. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, all postseason tournaments were canceled on the week of Mar. 12.
This off-season has been like no other with limited practice that has been filled with challenges of dealing with new guidelines. Masks and being six feet apart have become the new normal. As new and veteran players alike try to adapt to the new circumstances, the future for the program is bright despite the different atmosphere.
“We have had to re-learn and re-invent things that we do to deal with the virus,” said Sanchez. “The nonverbal communication has been a challenge trying to see if the players understand from under their masks also it has been a challenge to run with a mask on it just gets hard to breath.”
The NCAA announced on Sept. 16 that college basketball will start on Nov. 25 this year, which is almost a month later than the usual start date. The team has to wait to get back on the court but it is nothing new for Ron Sanchez and his coaching staff.
“We are going back to what we used to do especially for guys that have been around for a while,” said Sanchez. “Thanksgiving used to be the big kickoff for the basketball season so our job is to get our players ready for this late start. Honestly we are just grateful to have a start date to go back to.”
The new recruiting class has had many great additions that gets the fans and staff excited for the future. New players such as Caleb Byrd, Jackson Threadgill and Jared Garcia bring a new fire to the team. They look to make an impact right away for Sanchez’s squad.
“I am excited about all the new guys that we have added to the team,” said Sanchez. “We are in our player acquisition phase of gathering players and getting talent that will help us compete.”
The rising freshmen will have to go through the process of getting acclimated to not just playing on the court but with the new social distancing guidelines. They will look to veterans such as Jahmir Young and Jordan Shepherd who were important parts of the offense for guidance and leadership a year ago.
“These veteran leaders will make sure that we do what we have to do to stay apart off the court as well as the game plan on the court,” said Sanchez.
The Niners look to improve in certain categories such as playing on the road which they struggled with last year. Charlotte also looks to continue to do the things that brought them success like defending and playing at home. They were things that were done especially well. The goals have been set for the upcoming season.
“What I hope will be different is that we can play better on the road,” said Sanchez “I want to be able to play in the C-USA conference basketball tournament also.”
Optimism exudes from this team as the future is bright and full of hope. Coach Sanchez has a great team that he has been preparing for this season. No matter what happens this season, they are prepared and ready for the new year.
“We have to prepare for the normal season and when an obstacle comes up, overcome it,” said Sanchez. “We want to take the stairs and not the golden elevator because we want to work.”