Under the NCAA’s expanded rules in 2020, Division I basketball is, for all intents and purposes, a year-round sport, and it looks like athletes’ bodies may not be on board with the new plan.
In just over a month, four players with ties to Minnesota lost their 2022-23 seasons due to season-ending knee injuries sustained during NCAA summer training. This includes Ben Johnson’s biggest and most experienced striker and one of the Big Four new recruits recruited by Lindsay Whalen.
It also includes one of the best college basketball players, Point Connecticut guard Big Bakers, who ruptured the ACL in her left knee last Monday and had surgery at the end of the season on Wednesday. Iowa State announced Friday that junior guard Kylie Feuerbach has torn the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee and will not play this year.
Coaches are always pushing for more time to work with student-athletes, whether it’s in an effort to recruit more or prepare existing coaches for the season. After the last month, one wonders how productive it was to get them to exercise all summer.
When Gophers women’s basketball began summer practice on June 13, Wahl noted that when she played for Minnesota from 2000 to 2004, she spent the summer working with her father at the 3M plant in Hutchinson and playing pick-up games—the point is, it’s a lot different for the DI students. Athletes these days, are supposed to be the best.
But only a month later Whalen announced via a press release that Niameyah Holloway, striker from Eden Prairie and a quarter of the nationally ranked recruiting class, will miss this season after injuring her knee in training. Last Monday, Johnson announced that Isaiah Hanin He will miss this season due to a season-ending knee injury he sustained in July, a few weeks later Parker Fox He was lost to a knee injury while training.
Fox and Ihnen both missed the 2021-22 season after blowing their knees last summer, Ihnen during summer practice in June, Fox during practice after about a month of commitment in Minnesota after two years at D2 Northern State in Sioux Falls, SD Fox and Ihnen A big loss for Govers Johnson, last season due to injuries to Fox and Ennin.
The rest of Minnesota’s basketball players will likely become the best basketball players this summer, adding muscle, stamina, and skills to college basketball. But one wonders how useful it really is when some of his teammates get lost in June and July for a schedule that begins in, uh, let me check the calendar here…November.
Two summers prior, the NCAA expanded the summer window for Division I basketball players to practice and/or train with program staff to eight weeks of required activities beginning July 20 and running through at least September 15. It’s eight hours a week, but it’s still four two-hour exercises a week — and it follows a window of volunteer workouts that begins June 1st. In this context, it is hard to think of volunteering as anything but a misnomer.
Now that NCAA student-athletes have earned a salary and are finally allowed to share the profits of the billion-dollar industry they lead, it’s easier to accept the fact that being a top college athlete is a full-time job. And students probably like to play basketball almost all year round. I probably would, especially if there was a 24 hour kitchen available for refueling. And maybe consistent time with coaches and staff really makes them better players, which is a desirable situation for athletes who aspire to spend at least some time making real money playing basketball.
Perhaps this is counterproductive. Breathing may be in order.
There’s something to be said for the off-season too, and it’s not just a year off because you’re recovering from surgery.