When Chad Jacobson was hired as the Saskatchewan Rattlers head coach in January, he had no way of knowing just how unusual his first season on the job would be.
It was only a few weeks later that the COVID-19 pandemic forced the sports world to shut down, and as the weeks passed it became clear that Jacobson and the Rattlers would not be opening the 2020 Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) season as planned.
Fast forward to the present and the CEBL is set to become the first professional league in Canada to resume play more than two and a half months after the season was initially scheduled to begin.
“It’s been a wild ride. You know things are changing constantly, it’s a fluid situation but we just gotta adapt with what’s happening and do our best,” Jacobson said.
The Rattlers are now getting set to convene in St. Catharines, Ont., for an abbreviated training camp that begins on July 17 followed by a two-week sprint to the CEBL championship, meaning Jacobson will need the team to come together in a hurry if it hopes to successfully defend the title it won during the league’s inaugural season in 2019.
“Just being able to get everybody on the same page and up to speed in a short time period is going to be challenging but given the roster we have, the type of guys that we have on the team, I’m looking forward to coaching these guys and I think that they’re gonna adapt quickly,” he said.
The condensed schedule doesn’t give Jacobson much time to install systems or experiment with different lineup combinations and the onus will be on the players to become a cohesive unit in short order.
“We don’t have the time to try and understand necessarily why he’s saying ‘let’s do things this way.’ We just kinda gotta all lock-in, ’cause if everybody’s trying to do their own thing, trying to follow their own flow and way of playing basketball, we won’t be successful,” rookie guard Rashawn Browne said.
Then there’s the spectre of COVID-19, which could potentially be a big distraction. However, Jacobson believes that once the players are inside the CEBL’s bubble and have gone through testing protocols, they will be able to focus on basketball.
“The league has worked really hard in creating a safe environment. They’re working with the health authority, with the provincial government in Ontario. I think they have the right measures in place,” he said.
But despite the unique challenges the situation presents, the bottom line is there is finally some actual basketball on the horizon.
“We’re all excited to get back to work. I mean there’s no question there was some concerns about the whole situation with COVID and that but I think overall everybody’s really excited to get back on the court,” Jacobson said.
The Rattlers open the season July 26 against the Niagara River Lions. The CEBL championship game takes place on Aug. 9.