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Bouncing Back: UT Basketball Returns to the Court

By Amanda Baxter

Basketball is one of the first sports to begin to play after COVID-19 setbacks at The University of Tampa.

With the season still in question and games being canceled due to safety protocols in place, players continue to work hard despite the uncertainty.

Derrick Felder, senior point guard and captain on the men’s team said he finds ways to stay motivated and help his team prepare for every practice and game.

“It is tough not knowing if you are going to have a game or not, but you have to stay positive in times like this, so we have to hope for the best,” said Felder.

Both the men’s and women’s teams remain COVID-free as they continue to follow CDC guidelines on and off the court.

“We know not to attend mass gatherings and put ourselves in risky situations because if one person gets COVID, it will affect the whole team and possibly put everyone in quarantine,” said Felder. “That’s just selfish, so we hold each other accountable for our actions.”

The men’s team began individual practice in September and switched to a group practice in October.

Martin Lakovic, a senior forward and co-captain on the men’s team said he’s looking forward to the rest of the season to come.

“There’s honestly not much need for extra motivation because we all miss it so much, and it’s been a long time since we’ve played, so we all work hard and take care of our health so that we can have a season,” said Lakovic.

With so many adjustments to COVID-19 protocols, the team must find ways to adapt.

“We have a great group of guys, great characters,” said Lakovic. “Many freshmen are incredibly talented. I have to be there to give them advice, make them feel comfortable, and let them do what they do best.”

The men and women teams played their first games on Wednesday, Feb. 17 against St. Leo University. The men’s team played away and was victorious with a 79-75 win. The women’s team was set to play their home opener the same day. However, it was canceled due to issues with protocol.

The men’s team currently stands with two wins, two losses, and one canceled game.

“When the Barry game was canceled, we honestly weren’t even surprised because that’s how crazy this year has been,” said Felder.

The Spartans’ most recent game was on Saturday, Feb. 28, against Florida Tech, where they won 74-69.

The women’s basketball team began preseason practice in September and had been practicing hard ever since. Unfortunately, the past five games have been canceled due to COVID-19 outbreaks from the opposing teams.

Coronavirus has disrupted play for the Spartans as they keep pushing forward in hopes of being able to play their next game. Julia Ingram, a senior shooting guard and captain on the women’s team said she is eager to begin gameplay.

“It has been emotionally stressful to prepare for our games and then have them canceled,” said Ingram. “We are taking everything one day at a time because we don’t know what will happen tomorrow.”

Despite all the challenges they are facing, going through it as a team has allowed them to connect.

“This season has taught us the importance of staying together as a team. Our chemistry has gotten better, as well as our skills. I think this will make us better in the long run,” said Ingram

The women’s team will play on Wednesday, March 3 against Palm Beach Atlantic. It will be played home at the Bob Martinez Athletic Center at 5 p.m. This will be the first game played for the team after the past five games have been canceled and will also be their senior night. Every game that is canceled will not be postponed or replayed. The Spartans continue to practice and hope for the best as their season continues.

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