Fans of Columbia College basketball will have to wait nearly a year in order to watch the Claim Jumpers grace the floor at Oak Pavilion again. With question marks already surrounding the modified spring season, Columbia College made the decision to forego athletics the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.
“We, as a college, have decided to opt out of the 2021 spring season,” Columbia head basketball coach Rob Hoyt said. “We just didn’t feel that it’s something that is in the best interest of our athletic department for health and safety reasons. We are opting out now so we can get our spring in place and start to move forward.”
Tuolumne County, like the rest of California, has seen a major increase in COVID-19 cases. Had the cases remained the same as they did in September or October, Hoyt feels the season may have been played. But with seemingly all of California in the purple “widespread” tier, he feels the choice to opt out of the season was an easy one.
“It’s probably something that would have been doable at Columbia had we not been in the purple tier,” Hoyt said. “It just didn’t make a lot of sense (to play). I’m supportive of the decision.”
With the possibility of spring basketball off the table, Hoyt can now start to focus on the 2021-22 season. One major loss will be that of Grayson Carper, who was a Central Valley Conference first-team player after his freshman season. With the uncertainty of his sophomore season, Carper signed to play next year at California State University, Fullerton. And because Carper did not play this year, he still has three years of eligibility remaining at Fullerton.
“A guy like Grayson is the kind of person who can elevate your program to an elite level,” Hoyt said. “Because of the person he is, mixed with the basketball player he has become, we are going to miss him greatly.”
Aside from Carper, Hoyt doesn’t have to worry about plugging up too many holes on his roster. Between players returning who played for him last year, and new players to Columbia this year, Hoyt doesn’t feel like he needs to find an entirely new team.
“If everybody ends up coming back and the guys who are committed to coming here do come here, we really don’t need that many guys,” Hoyt said. “We might need one or two players. But we’ll be fine. We already know who we want and who we are going after.”
Columbia last played in March and won’t have a scheduled game until Nov. 2021. Even though there will be nearly 20 months off between games, Hoyt feels that his team could actually benefit from the time off.
“I think we are fine and won’t skip a beat,” Hoyt said. “I think we’ll be a little bit better, because we will now have an older group. We had the benefit of having guys together here in the fall, so they already know each other and they’ve built relationships with one another and with me. We are going to be an older team and the older you get, typically, the better you get.”
Just because the 2020-21 season won’t happen, doesn’t mean Hoyt isn’t counting down the days until his team can once again gather and play. Like any quality coach, Hoyt is already preparing to get his players ready to make a run at a conference championship.
“We have a plan moving forward for the spring and summer,” Hoyt said. “We are not doing nothing. We are always moving forward and we are always looking forward to the future. That’s just where we are at right now. There’s some peace of mind knowing that there’s some closure on this issue that’s been up in the air for so long. Now we know and I’m actually excited for it. I’m now 100% in on fall 2021.”