Sidelined coaches crave that basketball fix

Coach Gameli Ahelegbe says he’s “itching” to get back to work.
Courtesy of South Dakota Athletics

The current COVID-19 stay-home orders, for lack of a better word, have been something of a blessing. It forced many of us to slow down and use our newfound creativity to best connect with the suddenly-stopped outside world.

“I’m a guy who likes to stay positive,” South Dakota Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Gameli Ahelegbe told us from his home. “Yes, this is unprecedented, and we’ve never seen anything like this, especially in my lifetime and in my coaching career. I am relishing in this moment that I get to be home every day and be with my kids and my wife.

“I have four children and love spending time with them and seeing them grow,” Ahelegbe continued. “The demands of the season… Your family takes a back seat during the season. I am definitely relishing the time with my family. In that regard, I am happy in how this is shaking out.”

College coaches nationwide are dealing with a “new normal”—the NCAA last week extended the on- and off-campus recruiting prohibition imposed in mid-March, initially to April 15, now through May 31 because of COVID-19’s continued threat. Ahelegbe anticipated such in dealing with the challenges.

“We are doing ‘virtual tours’ and figuring out how to get your information in your recruiting,” the coach said, “but you still have to foster those relationships.” Yet he longs to get back on the recruiting trail, “being on campus working with our guys, making our guys better.

“Right now I got the itch to get back out there to work with our guys. But we can’t. Everyone is trying to figure out that basketball itch that they have. I am imagining that every coach right now is trying to get their basketball fix somehow,” Ahelegbe said.

An Oakdale, Minnesota native and Tartan High School graduate, Ahelegbe began his coaching career soon after he graduated from Minnesota State in 2007 with an education degree. He coached at his prep alma mater and Brooklyn Center High School before embarking on college coaching at Minnesota State, Concordia (Minn.), and North Dakota before he joined the SD staff in 2014

“The University of South Dakota is a great place to be…” Ahelegbe declared. “The program is on the rise and a place to get a great degree and a place to play basketball.”

But for now, he and the rest of America is dealing with the uncertainly of the times. “There’s still that uncertainty,” Ahelegbe said. “I think what will happen after all this settles, everything will open back up and we will back with our guys when we are normally allowed to over the summer and at the end of the school year.”

Sports quiz
The whining by some sportswriters about not having live sports has revealed just how one-dimensional they are. Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal Sports Editor Rana Cash last week asked us on Twitter to choose: 1) Sports coverage is a welcomed distraction amid the scariest health crisis of our lifetime, or 2) Sports is so trivial at this time, we should not be writing about athletics.

“Are you more grateful for sports coverage or more offended?” asked Cash, a former Star Tribune assistant editor.

We can’t muster up too much sympathy on how much the NCAA, colleges, pro sports leagues, and pro players are losing or lost money due to cancellation of games since the middle of last month. This seems more important to the White House than to the thousands of people in this country alone who have died, or the countless folk in this country who live check to check but now are forced into unemployment because of COVID-19.

Players with six-to-seven-figure salaries need to know how to better manage their money.