Tipping off following lengthy break

Schedules for basketball season determined after many obstacles

Daniel Newman, Sports Editor

Divant’e Moffit and Chris Penner face off during a fall quarter practice. (Jacky Chen)

The Seattle Pacific University Men’s and Women’s basketball teams thought they finally knew their schedule for the season. Four teams, including Seattle Pacific, were set to do battle in a conference season taking place in the months of January and February.

However, on Dec. 11, the University of Alaska Fairbanks decided to back out of the season, citing health and safety reasons. This threw a wrench in the team’s plans, leaving only two teams, Northwest Nazarene University and Saint Martin’s University, for the Falcons to play over and over again.

Athletic Director Jackson Stava and President Dan Martin also made the decision to back out of the conference season, allowing the head coaches for both teams to schedule their own opponents.

“Basically, I kinda went through and started cold calling, I felt like a salesman trying to find teams for us to play,” Women’s basketball head coach Mike Simonson said.

Simonson said that he probably called 20-30 schools in the area and found six teams willing to commit, leading to twelve games for the Falcons this season.

“We wanted to make sure we had a good mixture of opponents,” Simonson said. “We wanted to schedule maybe a smaller school, a division three school… we wanted to play maybe an NAIA, we wanted to play a division two, we’re still hoping to get a division one on the schedule.”

As one might expect, scheduling basketball games in a pandemic is incredibly difficult.

“Just like we do here at SPU, each college or university we contact about playing has safety procedures and protocols in place they need to follow…. We also have the challenge of both our opponent and us having no positive covid tests in the lead up to the game,” men’s head basketball coach Grant Leep said.

Simonson still sees his team adding a game or two as the season goes on, but for right now, their opponents are a mixture of all the things they were looking to schedule. This includes Northwest Nazarene and Saint Martin’s, as well as Lewis and Clark State College, College of Idaho, and Northwest University.

The first opponent they take on will be Pacific Lutheran, a division three school from Tacoma, Washington, on Monday, Jan. 11. As the game will be both team’s first in ten months, there will be a lot of question marks heading onto the court, especially because Pacific Lutheran has a new coach this year.

“I kind of expect them to try some new things out, they won’t look exactly the same as they were last year, and I’m expecting our team to go in with a certain game plan and adjust mid game,” Simonson said.

The Falcons are still a young team this year, as they have nine players who are freshman or sophomores, but they return three of their top five scorers and get a senior leader back from injury in Kaprice Boston.

With the tough circumstances of the pandemic and the shortened season, Simonson hopes his team is able to grow and come together despite the adversity that they face. Getting back into game action will allow the coaching staff to see what strengths and weaknesses the team has.

“We’ve been practicing together for a really long time, and playing against a variety of opponents with a young basketball team, you really start to learn more about your team against other opponents,” Simonson said.

Leep knows that it took a lot of effort for his team to even get a chance to play this season.

“So many people have spent hours upon hours in meetings, writing procedures and getting us to this point. We are very thankful for their time and efforts,” Leep said.

The Falcons are coming off a regular season conference title and a 22-7 record last season, but they are still a young team. They only graduated two players last season, and have many key players that are either sophomores or juniors.

The Men’s season will tip off when Whitworth University, a division three school from Spokane, Washington, will come to Royal Brougham to play back to back games on January 13 and 14.

After this, there are only six more games on the schedule as of now for the men, but Leep is hard at work attempting to schedule more games for the team as the season goes on.

However many games the team ends up playing this season, the goal for Leep is that the Falcons continue to grow together.

“Going forward from this week, we want to take advantage of the opportunities we have, because much like everything of the last ten months, we need to be ready to adapt to whatever comes our way,” Leep said.