Redskins aiming for season to start on time

Loudon High School boys basketball coach Josh Graves gives a pointer Monday during a kids basketball camp session.

The summer has proved difficult for high school basketball teams across the nation, and the Loudon High School Redskins are making the most of what they can during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Head coach Josh Graves hosted his third kids basketball camp Monday and Tuesday in a limited setting to provide a sense of normalcy for the community.

“I think we ended up having 38 kids, but we still had a great crowd,” he said. “It was different in the sense we had to do five, one-hour sessions and split them into groups, and normally I would have everybody at one time for two hours for two or three days. That was different, and I think it definitely had its pros. I think it was great for our two older groups in the sense that I could push them a little harder and focus on the more advanced stuff for them. ... I think it’s definitely going to benefit the kids.”

On the high school side, Graves has encouraged the team every day in practice to stay the course.

“I think they’re all just itching for competition,” he said. “They are dying to compete. I mean they want to play, they want to guard each other and Lord knows I want them to. I’m very vocal that they’ve got to have better hygiene than a normal high school-aged boy would have, they’ve got to wash their hands more and shower more and that stuff. Our part may be little, but we have a part in whether we get to play or not. That’s kind of the way I’ve pushed it to them.

“You can see it as you may not have a season so why go hard, or I can go 10 times as hard and that way I know that when I do get that chance, I’m getting the most of it,” he added. “I think my kids have bought onto that.”

Following the two-week dead period, the Redskins transitioned more from basketball into conditioning and weight lifting.

“We go three times a week and have two different sessions because of the COVID-19 stuff, so we do a lot of bodyweight workouts and shooting,” Graves said. “We do skill stuff and things of that nature until school starts. Once school starts, it’ll all pretty much be workouts. They’ll be able to have some time to get in there and shoot, but I can’t give them any kind of instruction or anything like that. It’s been a lot of the same from June, but a bit more workout oriented than what June was.”

Several players are splitting time between basketball and other sports, such as football.

“I haven’t really been with basketball that much because I’m playing football now, so I’ve been going to football workouts mainly,” Donovan Blakenship, senior guard, said. “I’ve been going to basketball on Wednesdays, which are our days to go shoot. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays I usually after workouts with football will go up to the gym and shoot and stuff to try and stay in basketball rhythm.”

Blankenship is learning to balance the sports and is projected to play defensive back on the gridiron this fall.

“It’s definitely been weird because I haven’t played in years, haven’t played since I was in little league,” he said. “It’s a lot different than basketball being a defensive back, just the way your feet work, the way you move your hips — it’s a lot different. It’s a huge adjustment, but I’ll try to do my best.”

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Board of Control voted July 22 to adopt contingency plans for football and girls soccer, which will both experience major shakeups.

There is no word on what the basketball season will look like, but the Redskins will continue to practice as if the season will start on time.

“It could be easy for a kid to say, ‘We’re not going to play because the numbers are rising,’ but mine have bought in and they’re preparing for their season,” Graves said. “One thing that kind of pops in mind is we play in peak flu season. Our season is during the winter, so there’s a lot of sickness and stuff that goes around anyway. I would be worried that the normal head cold and flu and stuff like that would tend to scare people more, thinking it would be COVID-19. It’s good for us that football and girls soccer and volleyball, they’re all getting ready to play. It’s good that all the fall sports have a plan to play.”

Blankenship hopes to play out his senior season.

“It’s in the back of my mind and worries me a little bit, but it’s one of those things that if it gets canceled, it gets canceled,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do about it and it’s not in my hands, but I’m just hoping for the best that I get to play for my senior year. I’ve tried to be an encourager and not be down. Might as well give everything we’ve got if we have a season. If we don’t, at least we did our best.”