By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
Memorial was gunning for a fourth straight state basketball championship last spring when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The Chargers were 22-4 and ranked second in Class 5A boys and were set to play in the first round. Then the announcement came. The OSSAA postponed the tournament as cases were rising. Two weeks later, it was canceled and classes for the remainder of the school year were conducted online.
“It was more unbelievable than frustrating, because we had no control over it,” Memorial Coach Bobby Allison said.
“We still feel blessed that we got to have a great year last year,” Allison said. “All my (five) seniors that graduated won state championships before. Rather than have negative feelings towards the pandemic, we felt blessed with the run.”
Two starting guards return to the Chargers’ lineup for the 2020-21. One is Ty Frierson, a 5-11, 160-pound junior who averaged 11.7 points per game last year.
“He leads us in scoring among returning players,” Allison said. “He is one of only a dozen kids in Memorial history to average double figures as a sophomore. We look for great things from Ty as a junior. He’s ranked as one of the top 15 juniors in the state. He had a good summer and is ready to get working.
The other starter back is Juwan Terobitt (5-11, 175), who averaged five points per game last year. He will be one of two seniors on the roster.
“He is a great decision maker and point guard as well,” Allison said.
Another key player back is sophomore Seth Pratt (6-3, 170), who got a lot of playing time off the bench while averaging seven points per game.
“He’ll be getting starter minutes this year,” Allison said. “And we have a bunch of new guys who are waiting their turn in the program, that look to make their mark on Memorial basketball this year. They have waited by playing (junior varsity) and now it’s their time to get minutes at the varsity level. So we’re excited about a real talented group, but it’s the least experienced team that I’ve had coming back.”
Pratt is ranked as one of the top 10 sophomores in Oklahoma.
With the continuation of the pandemic, the Chargers are having to conduct a protocol daily for practice. Student athletes have to answer questionnaires and have their temperatures checked. School is also being done online, Allison said.
“The kids aren’t in class, but once they get done with their online classes, they filter into the gym between 3 and 4 p.m. everyday,” Allison said. “We go through the protocols and then we lace them up and practice from 4 to 6 p.m. We’ve found a niche routine. It took us awhile, but by mid-October, we got into a groove and we’ve done a good job making each day count.”
The players also have a basketball study hall, the coach said.
There is uncertainty caused by COVID-19 and Allison warns it can lead to frustration if his team allows it.
“We want to play so bad and it’s all brand new to these kids,” he said. “I have two returning starters who have been longing for (2020-21) to be a special year, but the rest of them want their turn. I have a ton of juniors and sophomores that have awaited their turn to play some major minutes for Memorial. So, this group has done everything you can ask them to do under the crazy circumstances, but it’s going to be a year like no other with uncertainty and different protocols. We’re going to have to wear masks on the bench, but not when we play. They’re ready to accept those challenges.”
Memorial opened the season on Nov. 19 with a convincing 97-53 win against Nathan Hale.
It played on the road Nov. 28 against Lawton MacArthur, whom it was scheduled to meet in the first round of last year’s state tourney.
The Chargers had their home opener against Will Rogers (Dec. 4), then will travel to Norman for a tournament involving the best teams in Classes 4A, 5A and 6A (Dec. 10-12), Allison said.
“We also have the two best teams out of Arkansas coming to our place on Dec. 17 and Dec. 19 – Little Rock Central and Ft. Smith Northside (respectively),” Alison said. “It’s going to get us ready for the playoffs. It will make us tough and it will make us exactly what we are and what we aren’t by the time the playoff season rolls around.”
When the calendar turns to 2021, games against Edison, East Central, Central, Webster, along with second meetings against Rogers and Hale are on the schedule.
Open dates are also available in case games are postponed or if new opponents are needed to make up for cancellations.