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Everything is on hold

NCAA actions affect basketball recruiting cycle

Correspondent file photo / Robert Hayes YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun pumps up the crowd as he walks off the court following YSU's 88-70 victory over Wright State on Feb. 20.

Jerrod Calhoun would be in either a rental car, his own vehicle or flying across the country this time of the year.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any mid-major basketball program, especially for Calhoun, the Youngstown State University men’s basketball coach, and his assistants.

On Friday, the NCAA instituted a dead period for in-person recruiting through at least April 15. The move eliminates unofficial on-campus visits from prospective student-athletes, though phone calls, text messages and written correspondence are still allowed.

The decision is part of the NCAA’s effort to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“Usually this time of year you’re flying or driving or bringing kids to campus,” Calhoun said. “All that is put on hold for the immediate future. Just making phone calls. Keeping in touch with guys.”

The YSU men’s team has three signees for next season — 6-8 forward William Dunn (Quincy, Mich.), 6-5 guard Myles Hunter (Charlotte, N.C.) and 6-foot-8 forward Cheick (pronounced SHAKE) Traore (Concord, N.C.).

The Penguins have a verbal commitment from Mentor High School 5-9 junior guard Luke Chicone, who scored 39 points in the Cardinals’ Division I regional semifinal last week. It was the final game before the Ohio High School Athletic Association indefinitely postponed the boys and girls basketball postseason, along with the wrestling and ice hockey state tournaments.

YSU (18-15) was slated to host a first-round CollegeInsider.com Tournament game this week. It would’ve been the second time since the 2012-13 season that YSU would have played in the postseason.

“It’s hard not getting to continue to play with your team,” Calhoun said. “Obviously what we’re dealing with, this is a crazy time in our world.

“I think going into year four there’s going to be a lot of expectations, a lot of excitement. I think everybody is anxiously awaiting to see when and where we’ll start taking the next step. For right now, everything is on hold.”

It’s going to be weird for all college basketball fans. No first-round games in Dayton on Tuesday and Wednesday. The annual rite of passage of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday afternoon won’t happen.

The NCAA women’s basketball tournament is out as well, something YSU women’s basketball coach John Barnes, along with his team and staff, would’ve been watching starting Friday.

“I’m still in shock of March Madness being canceled,” Barnes said.

The Penguins are focusing on the 2020-21 season, but getting time in the gym and weight room inside the Beeghly Center is out. The spring semester is all online for the remainder of the term with no students on campus.

Barnes and his staff stay in touch with their team, giving them instructions how to keep in shape during this down time. They’re staying on task.

“At this level, they’re pretty good,” Barnes said. “They’ve worked really hard and want to be good. We don’t have to worry about them too much doing their workouts on their own. I think the schoolwork would be the harder part.”

The YSU women have signed 5-9 guard Malia Magestro from Kennedy Catholic High School (Hermitage, Pa.), 5-10 forward Nneka Obiazor (Eden Prairie, Minn.) and 6-0 guard Emma Randall from Shelby High School in November.

“We can talk to them over the phone. We can mail them, text them,” Barnes said. “We can’t go on campus, off campus. We can’t go watch them.”

Everything is being put on hold with people being vigilant against COVID-19 and other illnesses. Calhoun is at home with his family.

“That’s really my biggest focus right now,” he said. “Just staying busy with them. Keeping them away from people. Just listening what the world leaders are telling us. It’s definitely different. I think all the coaches are going through a little bit of basketball and team withdrawal. At the end of the day, I think they made the right decision at the right time.

“It’s something we’ve never dealt with. We’re taking it day by day, reading things like everyone else. We’re trying to do what we’re told.”

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