Bonanza guard Chris Dockery was supposed to play organized basketball again this spring. He was supposed to show his refined perimeter shot to Division I college coaches. It’s the shot he honed during months of relative inactivity caused by the broken tibia that cost him his entire junior season.
He was supposed to prove himself through competition against some of the best players in the country.
Instead, he waits.
“It’s really disappointing, not just for me but for a lot of (rising seniors) with no offers or a few offers,” said Dockery, who plays club basketball for the Las Vegas Knicks and has an offer from Southern Utah. “(We were) looking to boost our catalogs and everything for the season and for college coaches. This coming up summer was huge.’
The coronavirus pandemic has forced club basketball teams to postpone their respective seasons and subsequently halted the recruitment of prospective basketball players seeking opportunities to secure scholarships this spring and summer. The major grassroots circuits have postponed their events through May, and the April live period — during which college coaches could watch and recruit players — is no more.
Only three local underclassmen have committed to Division I programs: Durango’s Keshon Gilbert (UNLV), Bishop Gorman’s Will McClendon (UCLA) and Centennial’s Taylor Bigby (Oregon).
The rest, like Dockery, will wait.
“For the high level kids, it’s not going to be an issue. … Coaches already know about them,” said Katie Lutman, who co-operates the Vegas Bulldogs program. “But for those mid-major, low level Division I, Division II and NAIA kids, the junior summer is one of the most important. So it’s tough. It’s going to be tough.”
Local programs such as Vegas Elite, the Knicks and Bulldogs have suspended their operations. Program directors and coaches are at a standstill as they figure out the best way to promote their prospects amid an unprecedented crisis.
Lutman is an assistant girls coach at Centennial, where the Bulldogs play during the high school season. She said she’s begun preparing highlight reels of her players to send to college coaches. Other program directors and coaches in the area are leveraging steady relationships with colleges to bolster the recruitment of their players.
Vegas Elite assistant program director Rich Thornton noted that “everybody is on the same playing field,” because of COVID-19. He said all club basketball players are affected in some way. It’s not as if some players are being viewed and others aren’t, he says.
“But it is unfortunate because there are always those handful of kids that are unknown who go to a live event and play terrific and pick up some interest that they didn’t get in high school,” said Thornton, who doubles as an assistant boys coach at Bishop Gorman. “It’s tough.”
Thornton said he’s hopeful that additional live periods will be instituted if and when the crisis slows, but nothing is imminent. Colleges are prohibited from recruiting in person until at least April 15.
With no organized practices and increasingly limited court availability amid school and gym closures, players like Dockery are working on their skills outside or on their own as they wait for organized basketball to return.
“Once we get an understanding of what’s going on, where we’ll playing and what’s going to happen, we’ll resume with regular scheduled programming,” Knicks program director Lamar Bigby said. “This is a life thing that happens, but I think it’ll never be forgotten.”