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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Megan Poe
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My name is Megan Poe and I’m an English (writing concentration) and Philosophy double major at Northern. My concurrent experience with being published in and interning for literary magazines has landed...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion-- A list of regrets before I graduate
Opinion-- A list of regrets before I graduate
Sal Wiertella March 1, 2024

Wildcat hoops await any, all upcoming challenges

PRACTICE PAWS-E—Most NMU teams are currently in a pause of practices due to increased COVID-19 numbers on campus and in the community. However for Matt Majkrzak and the men’s basketball team, the newly released schedule gives them hope. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics.

Due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the Marquette community, all NMU athletic teams not in the midst of preparing for competition in the month of November (exceptions are Hockey and Greco-Roman Wrestling) have taken a two-week pause on practices. However, it appears more time off is on the horizon as university officials are waiting on clarification from the state of Michigan on what the newest executive order means for Wildcat sports.

Results from Oct. 26 university-wide surveillance testing indicated an increase in COVID-19 cases on campus, and the decision was made to pause large group activities including intercollegiate and national training site team practices, NMU Athletic Director Forrest Karr said.

When surveillance testing from Nov. 2 showed asymptomatic positives on five different teams, that decision extended to recreational sports activities at the PEIF and the Wildcat Fit Zone also, Karr added.

Among the teams idled were the men’s basketball squad led by Head Coach Matt Majkrzak which has just released its 2020-21 conference schedule beginning the weekend of Friday, Jan. 9 and Saturday, Jan. 10. The two weeks of suspended practices has ended for the Wildcats, but with COVID-19 restrictions changing almost every day, the pause is still on after two weeks.

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In recent weeks, the team has started practice as one group, and it has felt like normal times, Majkrzak said. When practice does return, shooting will be an emphasis. The players have not gone this many days without shooting a basketball most of their lives, Majkrzak said.

 The lack of shooting isn’t Majkrzak’s main concern- it is conditioning. The basketball skills can be addressed when needed, he said, but he thinks it is the conditioning and the cardio especially that needs work with games coming up sooner rather than later.

“It has been hard because we were just starting to get in a rhythm for the first time, trying to actually get into shape where we can play live basketball,” Majkrzak said. “When all that stops, they’ve had to be creative on their own by running outside, doing some indoor workouts on the days when it is cold and just trying to stay in as good of shape as possible.”

 To stay in a basketball mindset, the team has communicated regularly on Zoom, Majkrzak said. It has been hard for the players to not see their teammates, he said, but Northern is not the only college basketball team having to deal with the negative aspects of the pandemic.

“Everybody is going to be dealing with this, but we have to try and deal with it better than the other people, and you try to get a little competitive with it the same way you do with basketball,” Majkrzak said.

Taking over the head coaching job at NMU just five months prior to the start of the regular season in 2019, Majkrzak had little time to familiarize himself with the program and his players. Having been under adversity ever since arriving, He has found the COVID-19 outbreak to be a whole new challenge.

“It almost has seemed like there is almost always something going on since I got here in a lot of ways,” Majkrzak said. “I think for the guys, too, as far as having a new coach late. It seems like we have been kind of dealing with stuff now for a year and a half.”

There are seven new players between transfers and incoming freshmen. This has not been the ideal start for the majority of Majkrzak’s team in his second season at the helm. He said that the team has handled the adversity well, but said that the transfers are experienced and might have had a little bit less of a crazy transition. However, Majkrzak said he feels bad for his freshman players who have begun college life in the middle of a global pandemic.

 Recently, Majkrzak has hopped on the Zoom call with the team to deliver the good news that the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference has announced this year’s schedule for both Men’s and Women’s Basketball. 

“It is a light at the end of the tunnel where at least we might be able to play some games—assuming everything can hold up,” Majkrzak said. “It also gives you a sense of urgency for once we start up again and have something to kind of really ramp it up for.”

It seems a little bit more real that games are coming up, even with practice looking different with masking and social distancing, Majkrzak said. Those differences do not matter however, it is a sign of normalcy that basketball is available to be played in any fashion.

“The ability to practice definitely makes you kind of appreciate it more and enjoy it more than maybe you would in a normal year where you are more focused on games,” Majkrzak said. “We are at the point where anything you can get basketball wise. We are not going to take it for granted.”

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