The news of a virtual meeting between Illinois High School Association officials and Illinois Department of Public Health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Deputy Governor Jesse Ruiz and IDPH chief of staff Justin DeWitt did little to offer hope to the thousands of student-athletes state-wide hoping to play basketball this winter.
In fact, it made the situation seem more dire.
“Our Board of Directors is going to have difficult decisions to make regarding the seasons’ for medium- and high-risk sports very soon,” IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said. “With no specific IDPH timeline or statistical benchmarks established for the return of sports and the calendar shrinking, putting together a puzzle that allows for all sports to be played becomes increasingly improbable.”
It’s not the news anyone wanted to hear.
But until the death knoll rings on high school sports, student-athletes continue to wait with anticipation while finding ways to kill time and maintain their sanity.
Senior Sports Writer Matt Schuckman had the opportunity to chat with several area athletes and get a taste of how they are using their free time.
Saukees’ Tomhave hoping pingpong isn’t only game this winter
PITTSFIELD, Ill. — The three Tomhave brothers have played enough pingpong throughout the holidays to create a pretty definitive pecking order.
The oldest isn’t necessarily the best.
“Brennan (a high school freshman) probably has the best record,” said Cade Tomhave, a senior three-sport athlete at Pittsfield and the oldest of Saukees coach Brad Tomhave’s three boys. “Who has the most potential? I’d have to say (11-year-old) Brody. He’s a good little player. He can return it with the best of them.”
As for the feistiest, Brody takes that honor, too.
“He can find himself getting a little angry if things aren’t going his way,” Cade said. “Us big brothers probably don’t help with that process.”
Their dad has learned to stay clear, be it as a competitor or a calming influence.
“He knows he can’t beat us,” Cade said with a laugh.
But if they ever get back in the gym, he can make them run so they have to take it somewhat easy on him. There’s no backing down from each other.
“My brothers and I have played an absurd amount of games of ping pong in our basement,” Cade said. “It’s started to become somewhat of a heated competition every night. A lot of the time is taken up by tennis table games in the basement.
“I think we’re all doing a pretty good job of staying busy.”
It hasn’t been easy with basketball season yet to start and the window of opportunity dwindling.
A shooting guard for the Saukees who played golf in the fall and likely will be Pittsfield’s starting third baseman should there be a baseball season, Cade Tomhave has taken advantage of local gyms remaining open while observing certain coronavirus protocols in order to lift weights and continue training.
“We’re rebels here in our little town,” he said with a wry grin.
He’s continued working for Reel Concrete, spending five days per week pouring molds and concrete for a business that specializes in ornamental concrete, landscape ponds and landscaping accents. Some of his teammates are continuing to work, too.
“That’s keeping us sane,” Tomhave said. “Just finding things to do so we’re not sitting around in our rooms thinking about what we could be doing.”
They know they should be practicing or playing every day.
“For the last couple of years, you have had the two-a-days, the 6 a.m. practices and you dread going to those,” Tomhave said. “Then your senior year comes and you wish you were getting up at 5:30 a.m. in the freezing cold and going to the gym to be with your buddies and play a game. It just kind of sucks that the last year I get to do that it quite possibly isn’t going to happen.”
Hornets’ Flynn twins going old school with their games
MOUNT STERLING, Ill. — Undoubtedly, the Flynn twins know someone killing time by playing Call of Duty, NBA2K or some variation of a popular video game on Xbox or Playstation.
They prefer their gaming to be old school, like shake-the-dice-in-the-cup and pen-and-paper-scoring kind of old school.
They’re playing Yahtzee and Clue.
“We’ve been playing lots of board games,” said Katey Flynn, a sophomore on the Brown County girls basketball team. “A lot of Yahtzee.”
A competitive duo who are part of a competitive family, they take the outcomes as serious as you might expect.
“Not to brag, but I’d say me,” Katey’s twin sister, Klare, said when asked which one is the more savage game player. “She might have a different answer.”
The answer isn’t nearly as important as the fact they are engaging in something entertaining at a time their thoughts could easily drift to what’s being lost. Along with their older sister Izzy, the Flynn twins have avoided the doldrums associated with a winter without basketball.
“I’ve been trying my best to stay positive,” said Klare, who missed her freshman season because of a knee injury. “I’m thankful enough to have two older sisters who are on the basketball team that I get to work with, so at least I am able to better myself, but it’s been very tough.”
Although the gym is opened for individual workouts, it’s certainly not the same.
“We have to be masked up and completely spaced out and there are only certain times we can go,” Katey Flynn said. “It’s hard when you can only work on things yourself, but you can’t work on a group activity. Everybody’s trying to do little things to improve and doing their best.”
When the weather has been nice, it’s led the Flynns to playing H-O-R-S-E or 1-on-1 on their backyard court.
“Not only do I have someone to talk to who understands how upset I am we can’t play, but somebody to work with so I can get better for when the season does finally start up again,” Klare Flynn said.
That’s only if a season takes place.
“If we don’t get to play, I hope we get to do small things to keep us all active,” Katey Flynn said. “I’m hoping we might still get to play. I just have to stay positive and look forward to the two years I have left to play if we don’t get to play at all this year. I just want to keep playing, whether it’s with my school team or my travel team.”
Outdoor pursuits lead to memorable moments for Eagles’ Klingele
LIBERTY, Ill. — Nolton Klingele found a silver lining to the delay to basketball season.
It’s given him more time to hunt.
“There were a lot of times we were able to go to the deer stand during the week because we weren’t practicing after school,” Klingele said. “You were able to make it to the stand in time.”
It paid off with Klingele harvesting a buck with his bow for the first time.
“That was kind of exciting,” Klingele said.
It tempered the disappointment the lack of basketball has created.
“Basketball is the only sport I play, so that is the one thing I wait for during the year,” said Klingele, the Liberty senior guard. “I’m always working towards basketball. Now that we can’t play, we’re stuck waiting on the state to see what we can do.”
In the meantime, the Eagles traveled as a group to Bettendorf, Iowa, to play in weekend tournaments and plan to play in St. Louis in the coming weeks. It’s not the same as a Friday night in a packed gym after working all week to prepare, but it’s game play nonetheless.
“You just keep pushing for a season and hope it happens,” Klingele said.
Until then, Klingele will stay busy staying in shape and working on his game.
“Not being able to be in the gym with the team every day after school for practice, you come home and find things to do,” Klingele said. “You do your homework or find a workout to do or try finding somewhere to go to play basketball.”
The occasional video game helps kill time, but Klingele and his friends spend most of their free time outside riding 4-wheelers, hunting and fishing or simply messing around.
Living in rural Adams County opens the door to a myriad of adventures.
“It gives us more options,” Klingele said.
The best option would be to be back on the court.
“I think it will happen,” Klingele said. “You just have to stay patient.”
Blue Devils’ Chevalier thinking out-of-the-box
QUINCY — Kate Chevalier’s routine is out of whack.
“It’s really weird that I come home from school and I don’t do anything,” said Chevalier, the Quincy High School senior. “Last year, I’d come home, get dressed for basketball, go back to the gym, then come home, eat dinner and do my homework. I’d do the same thing the next day.
“I think it’s really weird that I don’t have anything to do now.”
So she either starts homework, shoots around at home with her younger sister or goes to Starbucks with friends.
“That’s about it,” Chevalier said.
It’s hardly the high school swan song she imagined.
“It doesn’t feel like the senior year anyone was hoping for,” Chevalier said. “I didn’t get a homecoming this year. I didn’t get a prom last year and probably won’t get one this year. It’s just crazy. I’m sad I don’t get that experience, but it is what it is. You have to live through it.”
And you must stay positive.
Being able to shoot at the hoop in their driveway with her sister helps, as does going to the YMCA where their mom rebounds for them. Their QHS teammates such as Emily Wlson and Laci Novosel come by the house and they end up playing games of 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 in the driveway.
The oldest of three siblings, Chevalier and her family have gotten creative, too. They set up a pickleball court in their basement.
“We found a lot of out-of-the-box things to do that we would never really do together,” Chevalier said.
Anything to kill time until basketball season gets a go.
“I really hope we have a season because this will be the year to play with my sister and my last season of basketball ever,” said Chevalier, who plans to attend either Saint Louis University or Truman State University and major in biology.
“If we don’t get a season, I’m going to try to play in as many out-of-state tournaments as I can because I really want to play this year. I think our team was going to be really good this year.”