BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) It certainly wasn't the way the Hoopcats wanted their season to end .
"When the championship game got canceled, I think we were all really scared and concerned about what was going on," UVM head men's basketball coach John Becker said. "You know you certainly feel for the seniors who don't get another chance at it."
But with the unfinished campaign in the past, Coach Becker and his team are looking toward the future. Up first, helping the recent graduates get a jump start on their careers .
"You know Anthony, we went through the process with him of helping him choose an agent," Becker said. "He's done Zoom interviews with multiple NBA teams and is in that process, which obviously is very different this year. Daniel Giddens has actually got a job over in Switzerland next year playing basketball. Everett, you know is really missing basketball. He's retained an agent and will explore opportunities to potentially continue his career."
One key piece they won't be losing is second leading scorer Stef Smith, who submitted his name for the NBA draft but didn't exactly get to go through the same process Anthony Lamb or Trae Bell-Haynes did after their junior years .
"He would have liked to get feedback and have the opportunity to potentially work out with some teams, but you know he understands the situation and he's really taking on the responsibility of being this year's leader," Becker said of Smith. "It makes me really proud to see his growth in that sense."
Becker says he is counting on continued growth from many of the returning players to supplement the key pieces that are still there in Smith, Ryan Davis, and Benny Shungu. But college hoops is an ever-evolving sport and transfers have become more and more important in recent years. The 2020-21 Catamounts will have three new faces with college experience: Bernie Andre from Northern Arizona, Tomas Murphy from Northeastern, and Justin Mazzulla, who sat out last year after transferring from GW .
"Bernie's an incredible kid and I've only met him virtually. He's been a really productive college player. With Tomas Murphy, I've seen him play quite a bit, I know his AAU coach really well. There's a little bit more familiarity with his game. And Justin Mazzulla, who came in mid-year last year, is a really good player too and so you talk about the three transfers that we got were all really good players at the school they came from," Becker said.
This time of year would typically be the "down time" for UVM hoops, as Becker says he likes to allow his players to rest and get their legs back under them after a long season. So far, the pandemic hasn't drastically affected their preparation for this coming year, but we're getting dangerously close to the time the team would typically get back onto the court.
"Late June and into July, when we have the Summer program, that's certainly when we kind of usually turn the page into the next season and so right now it's ok but I've been working a lot with our administration and working with our players to come together in July," Becker said.
Patrick Gym is still set up as an emergency overflow facility for UVM Medical Center, but the possible delay to the Summer program is just one of many issues the Hoopcats are dealing with. The athletic department made the decision to cut two coaching positions from the staff for budgetary reasons, and Becker also says scheduling has been tough. But he's hopeful his team will be able to return to action and that they can provide a boost for everyone as we continue to navigate our way through a trying time.
"I think all of us as human beings going through this are looking forward to getting back to normal and having a real appreciation for what that is and what that means," Becker said. "And hopefully we can not take each other for granted so much and we can appreciate our health and appreciate one another. And maybe we can be better versions of ourselves once we all get back together."