In accordance with new National Junior College Athletic Association requirements tied to pandemic concerns, the South Arkansas Community College Stars basketball teams will not start their regular seasons until early 2021.

The Stars’ seasons had been scheduled to start in November, but citing player safety, the NJCAA governing body elected to move the start date of all 2020-2021 regular-season basketball games of its member institutions to no earlier than Jan. 22.

Regular seasons will be abbreviated to no more than 22 games, but the time frame during which the seasons can take place will be extended by about a month, with postseason play continuing into April of next year.

“As we are in the midst of a global pandemic, college athletic programs across the country are taking measures to keep student athletes safe as possible,” SouthArk athletic director Dr. Derek Moore explained. “While we know this may be a disappointment for some, we want to follow all safety protocols for our student athletes and greater SouthArk community.”

The NJCAA decision makes sense, according to Stars head coach Nate Davis.

“Although we are disappointed our season has been postponed until the spring semester, we are very understanding of the situation and are hopeful for the future,” he said. “This time away from competition will help us not only develop team chemistry for both programs, it will also show us who will fit in certain roles.”

Practices still can be held beginning in September, as can some preseason games. SouthArk still is determining how those preseason games will be set up, and when.

“The college remains committed to supporting our student athletes while we find creative solutions that will allow for basketball to be played during the 2020-2021 school year,” SouthArk president Dr. Bentley Wallace said. “The safety of our students, faculty and staff remains the most important element of our pandemic response at SouthArk. For student athletes, we continue to balance safety guidance from state and federal agencies, proposed rules from the NJCAA and what is best for our athletes’ progress as scholars and competitors.”

Stars Booster Club member John Baine said that it’s important to continue supporting the program even though games are not being played this fall.

“College athletics is an important part of the college community that offers an additional pathway for students to earn degrees through scholarships, support services and a sense of team and community,” he said. “Supporting athletics supports students to achieve their goals and good-paying careers. When the community supports college athletics through financial giving, it supports the students in the next step of life.”

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