Sara Scalia didn’t shoot a basketball for four days in a row last week, which is the longest she’s gone without doing one of her favorite things in life in … “Never,” she said.
Seriously? Never longer than four days?
“I can’t remember [longer],” she noted.
The Gophers freshman sharpshooter loves to shoot. She’s a gym rat. A basketball court is her go-to spot.
Every year for spring break, she made her parents deflate her basketball so it would fit in the suitcase and then pump it up once they got to the hotel because she hated taking days off from shooting. Her basketball traveled with her to Jamaica, Cancun and the Bahamas.
She once played a high school softball tournament in Colorado. Her parents drove 10 miles in between games and paid $20 per day so she could shoot on a rim that was attached to the wall of a racquetball court. That was the only hoop they could find near the softball fields.
“I’m just happy in a gym,” Scalia said. “You don’t really think about anything else.”
The world has a lot on its mind with the COVID-19 pandemic. The gravity of this health crisis puts everything else in perspective. Personal inconvenience brought by self-quarantine is insignificant compared to front-page news that becomes sadder by the day.
Staying home is necessary. Gym rats know that. But there is something comforting about being alone in a basketball gym, shooting in silence. It has an uncanny way of blocking out everything happening in one’s life.
“It’s somewhere I can go and take my mind off things,” said Eden Prairie point guard Drake Dobbs, who shoots 500 to 750 shots daily. “An hour can turn into two hours. Two hours can turn into four hours.”
Gophers sophomore guard Gabe Kalscheur calls it mentally “therapeutic.”
“It’s just you and the hoop,” he said.
Gym rats have no place to go right now, at least indoors. High school gyms and health clubs are closed. Players accustomed to spending hour upon hour in the gym face a weird reality.
“I’ve talked to almost everyone I know who has a gym, and they had to shut them down,” said East Ridge’s Ben Carlson, who will play at Wisconsin next season. “Looks like it’s the driveway.”
Carlson shot baskets three times a week before school on nongame days throughout his career — arriving at 6:30 a.m., sometimes having to wait for school workers to unlock the gym. He didn’t have class the final period this year, so he’d shoot another hour before practice. And he does extra shooting at a gym in north Minneapolis on weekend mornings.
“[The gym] is a good place to be,” he said.
Unable to get into a gym last week, Carlson cleaned his garage, watched movies, played video games and lost to his mom in his family’s pingpong tournament. On Monday, he spent hours dribbling in his garage and shooting in his driveway.
Dobbs has one advantage over other gym rats: His dad, Troy, is senior pastor of Grace Church, which has its own gym. That’s where Dobbs shoots most of the time, though that might close, too.
“A lot of people have been texting saying, ‘Hey, can I get in there with you?’ ” Drake said.
Kalscheur rarely misses a day shooting in the team’s practice facility. The longest hiatus he has taken was a spring break trip to Mexico his senior year of high school. With the Gophers’ Athletes Village now closed, Kalscheur is going old-school.
“Find a park,” he said.
Kalscheur had some tough shooting performances this season. On occasion, he returned to the practice facility after games for some late-night shooting by himself.
“It might not be the best thing because there can be a lot of anger and being upset,” he said. “But it helps me.”
Scalia, who led all Big Ten freshmen in three-point shooting this season, takes only a day off if her legs are extra sore. She improvised last week. She shot trash into the garbage can and looked online for workouts to do inside the house. She has a hoop in her backyard, and her dad promised to shovel snow to keep it clear.
“The first couple of days I was going crazy not knowing what to do,” she said. “I’m trying to keep myself busy in the house.”