NOC Enid basketball won't start until January after NJCAA changes sports calendar

NOC Enid's Jalen Stamps goes up in the lane against Seminole's Anthony Thomas Monday, February 3, 2020, at the NOC Mabee Center.

ENID, Okla. — The National Junior College Athletic Association released an "updated plan of action" for sports for the 2020-21 academic year on Monday in response to concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Following a vote by NJCAA's Board of Regents, a majority of competition will be moved to spring, including basketball. Typically, the junior college basketball season for Northern Oklahoma College Enid's men's and women's teams begins in November, but the changes mean official competition can not begin until January 22, presenting a very compressed schedule.

"It's going to be much different, said NOC Enid men's basketball head coach Aaron Butcher on Monday. "Usually the end of January, we are starting the second week of our conference season."

All winter sports competition will begin in January with championship seasons moved from March to April. In addition to basketball, that would include wrestling, swimming and diving.

The new plan released Monday also shifts all close-contact fall sports, such as football, to the spring semester.

Spring sports, including baseball and softball, will remain largely unchanged.

The basketball changes though will be felt at NOC Enid on several fronts.

During what is now being termed the "fall practice season," teams will be permitted 60 consecutive days for practice and scrimmage between Sept. 15 and Dec. 15. They will also only be allowed five scrimmage dates.

For the new "spring championship season," practice will be permitted to being Jan. 11, 2021 and games can begin Jan. 22, a very short turnaround. A maximum of 22 games will be allowed and all competition must be completed by April 10. The men's and women's basketball championships will begin April 19, 2021.

"Five scrimmage dates aren't a lot," Butcher said. "From a coaching standpoint, it means you will have to have most of your stuff in place quickly."

Students will be returning for the winter semester just days before the first games will be played.

"The good news is we will be undefeated at Christmas," Butcher joked. "Seriously though, I will give them (NJCAA board) credit. They have been proactive and out ahead of most of the others on this. Other organizations have been a little bit slow. Glad to see they are doing their best to get a season played."

Butcher said he anticipates once conference season beings, you could see teams playing three games per week.

"You look at other people losing seasons, if we can get a season in, then we will be fine," he said.

NOC Enid women's basketball head coach Kelli Jennings, who just recently accepted the post, said one of the bigger challenges will be player conditioning with players coming back Jan. 11 after a 29-day interval between fall practice and the new spring schedule along with the compressed schedule. However, she also saw an upside.

"For me, it's an advantage," she said. "Bringing in new philosophies and new plays, gives me more time to install the X's and O's."

She believes the key will be the ability to roll with the punches in the seemingly ever-changing sports environment.

"Everything is unknown," Jennings said. "People wiser than me said that teams willing to be flexible and able to adapt, can be successful."

NOC Enid men's basketball team finished 17-15 last season. The Lady Jets were 21-9.

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Ruthenberg is sports editor for the Enid News & Eagle.

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