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Saint Francis

COVID break meant Christmas at home for Red Flash

Photo by Saint Francis Athletics: Ramiir Dixon-Conover

Saint Francis finally gets to play a basketball game tonight after a month off because of COVID, but the long break wasn’t all that bad for the squad because of some fortunate timing.

Unlike most college basketball players around the country, the Red Flash players were able to go back home and spend Christmas with their families.

Saint Francis’ last game was Dec. 8 at Mount St. Mary’s, and a game at Saint Bonaventure four days later was canceled because of a member of the Flash program tested positive.

Finals were already over, and the team didn’t have another game scheduled until tonight’s Northeast Conference contest at LIU. So, the players all got to go home for two weeks for Christmas and returned Dec. 27 to get back in basketball shape.

“I was excited to be able to give our guys the opportunity to go home and spend some time and recharge mentally,” SFU coach Rob Krimmel said. “It’s certainly been a different semester for these guys, and yeah, I hope that in the long run would be good for them.”

Most college basketball players spent their time alone with just their teammates on campuses across the country during Christmas. And there are few campuses in the country more isolated than SFU’s mountaintop campus in Loretto.

But Krimmel said he was “adamant” about being able to let the players go home.

“It could have been very easy, we could have tried the quarantine and the isolation up here in Loretto,” Krimmel said. “But the timing of it was, I wanted these guys to have a little bit of a break mentally.

“As much as we wanted them there for basketball — and that’s important; we’re coaches, we’re in the middle of the season — I thought it was important for the mental well being just to get home.”

There are two schools of thought about doing what Saint Francis did.

One is that the players were able to enjoy life at home and get away from basketball for a bit.

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However, there can be concern with sending players back home into environments, some say, where they may have been more susceptible to catching the virus since there was no isolation and no frequent testing.

“One of the things that, when we started this out, I wasn’t gonna have these guys live in fear,” Krimmel said. “I think a little fear is good. By no means is fear absent from what any of us do, right. I wanted to try to teach them how to be responsible, how to be responsible individually for their actions, OK.

“I can’t control what they do outside of practice here. But these kids have been phenomenal, have been unbelievable since we started this thing. The ability to test over and over again and deal with positive and negative and all of those things, they’ve been fantastic. But once they leave the gym, I really can’t control what they’re doing.

“I wanted to teach them some personal accountability and personal responsibility. And yes, is there a risk when they go home? Absolutely. But to not give our guys that opportunity to be around family during the holidays, that was a risk I was willing to take, and that was the tradeoff.”

The Flash tip off at LIU tonight at 7, then the teams will play again tomorrow at 4 p.m. Saint Francis is 1-4 overall (0-1 NEC) and hasn’t won since stunning Pitt in the opener.

One positive, though, is that point guard Ramiir Dixon-Conover will be back after missing the past three games with an ankle injury. He scored 21 points in the win at Pitt but got hurt in the next game against UMBC, and without him, the Flash just weren’t the same team.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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