There’s hope for hoops
What would a winter in Bush Alaska be like without basketball? With a little luck we won’t have to find out.
The Nome Nanooks, both boys and girls teams, just finished their first week of practice. It’s a delicate situation as the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet gone, but if the current low number of active cases continues, there will be a season.
A visit to a Friday practice found last year’s strong players looking even stronger this year. The Lady Nanook’s young players are back looking really good. Ten girls were at practice on Friday, with one more to join on Monday. “This was our fourth practice of the season,” said Assistant Coach Katie Tomter. Whether there will be an opponent and who that might be is still in the works. “We’ll have to hear back from the school and the city manager on that,” said Tomter. “But we hope so.” An opponent will most likely be from a community in the Nome Census area, perhaps Unalakleet. Kotzebue has begun to practice but they are outside the region.
“They’re all looking good out there today,” said Tomter. “I started coaching them when they were in fifth grade. I didn’t coach them last year, that was the first year I wasn’t there. I’m really excited to be up here at the high school level so I can continue to watch them grow. It’s a great, young team. They’re all strong with a good attitude.”
Head coach Brooks Fry was also upbeat about the young team. “I’m really pleased with this week’s tryouts,” he said. “Right now, we’ve got ten girls on the court and that may sound like a small number. But when you’ve got ten hustlers, that’s something you can work with. The athletic director is optimistic that at least in our Nome Census region, where we’re not required to quarantine, we’ll be able to scare up a few games.”
It was suggested that Unalakleet would be a candidate for some good games. “If we did that every weekend, I’d be OK with that,” said Fry. “We’ll definitely do some blue and white stuff and some alumni stuff but we’ve really got our fingers crossed to get Unalakleet up here or anything else from the region.”
Boys Head Coach Patrick Callahan, who is also the school’s athletic director, reported around 25 boys out for basketball. “To do varsity selections usually you have be in the 10 to 12 person range,” he said. “But with no games in sight it’s a little different. Typically, I would tell them by Wednesday where they’re at and we still haven’t done that. We may just continue to practice together for the time being.”
Any chance of a game with a city league team?
“I don’t think so, but we’ll get with some older guys and try and get them to come out and start playing us,” said Callahan. “Kind of like the volleyball did with the webstream going and the parents come in. Two guests per player. We’ll try to do some of that for sure.”
Other teams in Alaska are playing. Seward and Soldotna had a game scheduled and the valley schools were planning games with each other. The Kenai schools would be playing each other and not going into Anchorage. Valdez is already playing. “So, we’ll see games next week around the state,” said Callahan. “In our region, Bering Strait [School District] has started practicing but they’re not doing any games. At the February 4 and 5 board meeting they’ll decide if they’re going to do any games. Part of it is trying to get some of those quarantine rules lifted for local travel. Any of the villages can come to us and play without quarantine. So our school is willing to host teams that want to come in here.”
The players come to early practices with little or no background conditioning. When the school was open in early fall there was some open gym. But since the school has been closed the gym has also been closed. The Nome Rec Center has been mostly closed as well, although there have been periods where open gym was allowed. “We’re easing into conditioning right now,” said Callahan.