CHAMPAIGN — When this week started, Thursday was a scheduled off day for the Parkland men’s basketball team.
Coach Anthony Figueroa’s program, which won the Region 24 tournament this past Sunday to advance to the NJCAA Division II national tournament in Danville, practiced Wednesday and had plans to meet as a team on Thursday, but not practice.
Figueroa never envisioned earlier this week the meeting would turn into a discussion about what entails the rest of the season for Parkland.
Following the lead of nearly every sports entity in the United States in response to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, the NJCAA announced a postponement to its D-II national tournament on Thursday afternoon, with the event tentatively scheduled to start again on April 20.
The postponement also affects the NJCAA D-I men’s and women’s basketball tournament, along with the D-II women’s basketball tournament.
“Due to the concerns surrounding the safety and security of our student-athletes and those involved with Division I and Division II NJCAA championships, we are postponing the tournaments and maintaining a fluid mentality to see these tournaments take place with a tenative start date,” said Dr. Christoper Parker, the NJCAA President and CEO. “We have two main objectives in this situation — first and foremost is to protect the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, college personnel and fans. Second is to make sure our student-athletes receive the national championship experience that they have worked so hard for.”
Danville Area Community College has hosted the event for the past 26 years, and this year’s tournament was slated to start next Tuesday with six games. A total of 26 games was slated during four days of action up until the national championship game on March 21.
Now, all of that is on hold.
Figueroa said he first received word of the postponement on Thursday via social media.
“We’re still trying to process the information and figure it all out,” Figueroa said. “When the NCAA and the NBA and the other pro sports leagues started making adjustments, we knew this was likely going to be the outcome.”
The Cobras have compiled a 23-7 record this season and had qualified for their third trip to the national tournament under Figueroa, a Centennial graduate in his eighth season leading Parkland.
“For the guys, especially the group that’s been here for two years, they’ve built some relationships that will hopefully last throughout their life,” Figueroa said. “That’s something you can’t put a price tag on. Right now, we’re still hopeful our season will continue. We just don’t know when.”