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Day after Christmas will be rare quiet day for high school basketball

DJ Dudley of Fairfax played in the Classic at Damien last year. There will be no tournaments on Saturday.
DJ Dudley of Fairfax played in the Classic at Damien last year. There will be no tournaments on Saturday with high school sports shut down.
(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

The day after Christmas is usually the busiest day of the year for high school basketball teams in California. There are so many tournaments taking place that fans could rise at 9 a.m. and not be home until after 11 p.m. watching nonstop games in gyms.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down gymnasiums since last March. Who knew would it last into the 2020-21 sports season?

“We’ll be thinking about it all week knowing it’s been postponed or delayed,” said Damien coach Mike LeDuc, who originally signed up 80 teams to participate in the Classic at Damien that was scheduled to begin Saturday.

LeDuc is in his 48th season of coaching. “It’s really different. It’s the first time I’ve wrapped presents in years,” he said of his free time. “I’d rather be doing something else.”

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Kearston Stepenosky suffered early side effects but says she has no regrets and feels grateful to have participated in the COVID-19 vaccine trial.

The Classic at Damien has been rescheduled for April 5-10 with 48 teams, but everything is up in the air. Based on the state’s color tier guidance for allowing specific sports to proceed during COVID-19, indoor basketball would have to be in the safest yellow tier. LeDuc is hoping lots of things will have changed by April.

“I’m just hoping that the vaccine is going to make a difference,” he said. “That a few weeks after Christmas, there will be no future family holidays and the surge will go down.”

Damien’s fabulous gym has been locked and empty for competitions since March. LeDuc knows playing indoors could be a challenge under COVID-19 guidelines, but he’s also willing to think outside the box, such as considering outside basketball competitions.

“I think we should consider playing outdoors,” he said. “I don’t know how many courts are nice enough. Let’s see how many we got.”

LeDuc also said if the season doesn’t start in March, there’s still months left to get in a season.

“Many years our high school basketball team would play 50 games in the summer,” he said. “Basketball people are used to playing a lot of games in a week. I don’t think we have to look at it as a 12-week season. We could half that and have a great season. We don’t need five or six weeks to play a league schedule.”

LeDuc wants to play as many nonleague games as possible, because that’s what his players enjoy. Leagues could have conference tournaments to figure playoff representatives.

“I support let’s play as many games as we can,” he said.


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