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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Second-year basketball players experience the full student-athlete lifestyle

Second-year+basketball+players+experience+the+full+student-athlete+lifestyle

Second-year student-athletes are getting accustomed to a ‘normal’ year after the pandemic wiped out much of their first year at Knox.

Life on campus at Knox last year was a wasteland. There weren’t any activities or clubs happening to bring life to campus. You didn’t see kids congregating outside in the grass relaxing with their friends, not a care in the world. Indoor sporting events were non-existent outside of three men’s basketball games and two women’s basketball games. Now, that’s all changed.

The Knox first-year students received none of that typical campus life last year. In-person classes? Not possible. Meeting at a football game? Non-existent. Campus life was exceptionally dull.

The sophomore Knox students are almost experiencing their very first year of Knox. The pandemic caused fall term to happen at an almost entirely remote, winter term was remote for the first five weeks, and spring term was the ‘most normal’ term that the class experienced as the college started easing up on restrictions. 

With last year hopefully being an aberration, the second-year students are still adjusting to campus life when they should have a firm grasp on things. 

“The first few days this year the freshmen are like, ‘Where’s this at?’ Like, I don’t know,” sophomore basketball player Cade Windham says with a chuckle. 

“I don’t know where the classes are at, but it has been fun being in person, walking through the hall and seeing our teammates, and saying hi to people when you’re walking around and stuff,” Windham says. It feels like my first year on campus in that regard.”

Student-athletes always have two adjustments they have to make upon arriving on campus: Adjusting to campus life and the respective sport they’re playing. The first-year players on the Knox men’s basketball team adjusted more to basketball than campus. 

The players were able to get the individual on-court time, and practice with the entire team, so head coach Ben Davis believes that the sophomore group is closer on the court to being sophomores than first-year students on the court. But he understands the newness that has come with the loosening of COVID restrictions. 

“We [Coach Davis and Coach Jackson] kept telling them we feel bad for you guys with COVID and everything; this isn’t what college is usually like, you’re not just in your dorm room, but I think they didn’t understand that until they showed up this year. I’ve had a bunch of the sophomores this year come up to me and tell me, ‘Aw man, this is way better,’” Davis says.

The then-first-year students were stuck in a rigid routine. They could only go to the cafe, the gym, and their dorms essentially for the majority of their first year. 

Despite getting on-court time, a noticeable change for Windham has been scrimmaging with his teammates. There’s a freeness that comes with playing with your teammates when the coach isn’t there. Every mistake isn’t amplified, nor are you trying to prepare for an opponent. 

An open gym is the game of basketball in its purest form. It’s 10 guys on the floor, trying to win but also just enjoying the beauty of the game in a carefree environment. It’s in these intimate sessions that players get to understand their teammate’s game. The team is taking advantage of the opportunity to have open runs, a luxury they didn’t have before their first game last year.

“Those open runs give us more time to bond. I remember going into our first game last year, and I felt like I never really played with those guys,” Windham says. “So having these up and runs is big because we get to learn how the new freshmen play the transfers.

The restrictions put in place last year also restricted how the team could interact off-the-court. It was hard for the team to build camaraderie for the first month of the 2020-2021 school year due to most of their activities happening remotely. Team meetings were all on Zoom – imagine trying to recognize your teammates through a small box on your computer screen! At the beginning of the year, practices were restricted to two people to a court – the players couldn’t even pass a ball to each other! 

Coming in as a transfer student from California, Matt Garife had a slow, arduous process to getting acquainted with his teammates as he was one of the last players to commit to Knox. 

“Growing up, you played basketball, and you’d meet new teammates on the court, but this time, like we had to meet him through Zoom,” the senior says. “We had Zoom meetings together and we had a big group chat, but  I wouldn’t know anybody’s name. Like I would not even know their face, so I can’t build relationships with these guys.”

Garife has enjoyed getting to know more people besides his teammates as most classes are happening in person again. People aren’t stuck in their rooms staring at a computer screen all day. There are now reasons to leave your room and march around campus again.

“Everyone’s more out of their dorm, like, no one’s confined to their rooms. I think it encourages me because you get to meet different people and you get to build relationships with different kinds of people,” Garife says.

That togetherness that was lost during a pandemic that isolated most of the country is key for every sports team, particularly the basketball team. Knox is on a trimester academic calendar. That means that from Thanksgiving until the first week of January, the only remaining students on campus are the international students, the swim team, and both basketball teams. It’s during that month that the team truly become closer.

This year, Garife is enjoying getting to know his teammates off the court. 

“Last year was kind of just a basketball basis. We didn’t even hang out off the court that much because we just couldn’t; there were a lot of restrictions,” Garife says. “Now I get to know a lot more about these guys personally about where they’re from, like what they’re about. 

The second-year players haven’’t went through the grind of a college basketball season. There weren’t the road trips where you play a physical game, get back at midnight, and have an early class the next day. They didn’t have to experience sometimes having to do homework on a road trip. 

“There was a lot of starting and stopping with the COVID year,” Coach Davis says. “The grind is going to be different. The season is five months, starting October 15th and playing through March, hopefully. It’s a whole different beast. You have nine games in four weeks, and you might go out and play 28 minutes, and we have a game on the road at Cornell, and we get back at one in the morning. And then having to go to an 8:00 a.m. class.”

Though road trips are exhausting and long, Windham is looking forward to those trips this year. 

“In high school, we never took buses to games,” he says. “To just be on the bus with the guys and then the overnight stays, I know I’ve never experienced that. So I think that’ll be fun.”

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