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Scott High boys basketball coach Shawn Ballard said his squad was excited to be conditioning drills last week and looks forward to the start of the regular season.

BOONE COUNTY — Area prep boys and girls basketball teams have turned out for a conditioning period despite challenges related to COVID-19, and coaches say the response has been one of enthusiasm from their players.

Many coaches face the challenge of getting players ready for the beginning of actual practice in a week. As of press time, girls teams have 14 calendar days (including Sundays) to get in the required 12 practices to be eligible to play on March 3. Boys teams have 18 days before their season begins on March 5.

Focusing on conditioning without a basketball in site may be a tough proposition, but Scott High’s boys coach Shawn Ballard said the kids were ready to get to work.

“Our guys are loving being back in the gym — even if it’s just to condition — which is exciting,” Ballard said. “They’ve been cooped up for so long, they’re ready to get out and do anything, even if all we can do is run. Some stayed in pretty good shape, others were really struggling. In just two days we’ve seen a lot of progress.”

He added, “Guys were mad at the possibility of having to cancel conditioning today due to the weather, so I think that tells you how excited they are to be back.”

Sherman High boys coach Aaron Pauley said that he believes the student-athletes needed to be back on the hardwood.

{span}”The kids have been excited to get back in the gym, but found out real quick how out of shape they are,” he said. “They are enthused to be actually getting to play a season, and I believe this is something they need right now.” He continued, “Being around the players and other coaches the last few days has brought a sense of normalcy back that we have all missed. Hopefully, everyone can get some games in and experience some good competition while staying safe.” {/span}

Sherman High girls coach Terri Dawn Williams had a similar reaction to their conditioning sessions.

“Conditioning had been going good,” she said. “I have 15 girls out and they were excited to get started. They have been working extremely hard. It’s good to finally get back in the gym. (We’re) hoping everything goes good and we can get some games in.”

Throughout West Virginia, some teams have scheduled three games per week for the abbreviated regular season, which is just less than six weeks for girls and just over six weeks for boys. The regular-season schedules have been reduced from a maximum of 22 games to 18.

Scott High girls coach Kevin Harper said he had 12 girls out for conditioning, and, while he expected 14, he is pleased with the overall turnout and encouraged by the enthusiasm.

“We didn’t get to go on Monday because we were in the red, but Tuesday it was like Christmas day for them,” Harper said with a laugh. “The coaches were exciting and the girls normally won’t get excited if all they can do is run and condition with no ball or related activities. They were glad to be at it and out of the house.”

He added, “They were asking really good questions about how we were going to navigate all of this moving forward. We had low numbers last year coupled with some injuries, so I’m pleased to have 12. We won’t be able to play a full J.V. schedule, but we want to get a few J.V. games in to get some younger players some experience.”

Van High School girls coach Sam Terry — in his first season with the Lady Bulldogs — said his girls are conditioning with a high level of focus.

“It’s been going good for us,” he said. “All the players have shown up and today would have been day three, but of course the snow did us in,” he said via text message. “I am thankful that we got these few days to at least get some conditioning in and just to get to know the players a little bit better, seeing that this will be my first year there.”

He added, “I have added JoJo White as a volunteer assistant and Betty Brown will be my other assistant, so we are looking forward to Monday to getting the season started.”

For girls basketball, sectionals start on April 12 and for the boys on April 19.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry

@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.