PHOENIX, AZ (KTSM) — Christmas Day in 2020 looked a lot different for families across the country due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the New Mexico State men’s basketball program, who spent the day as a ‘basketball family’ from their home away from home at the Phoenix Grand Resort in Arizona.
“We are making it as homey as we can and making it feel as much like Christmas as we can. That’s what we want to do for these guys,” said Jans. “It’s a priority to enjoy the day and celebrate the holidays the best we can.”
The Aggies have seemingly been displaced in Phoenix, as state health guidelines in New Mexico prevents NMSU from playing or even practicing in Las Cruces. They have spent the last month in Arizona playing and preparing for the start of conference play, where they will play their “home” games on the campus of Grand Canyon University.
This time of year, even in a normal year, is hard for college basketball student/athletes to spend the holiday with their families. While the Aggies are used to being on the road for Christmas, it does not make their current situation any easier. NMSU has played just two non-conference games after having team activity suspended earlier this month following two positive cases of the coronavirus within their program. They have since resumed team activity, but do not have another game on their schedule until Jan. 8, NMSU’s Western Athletic Conference opener against Dixie State.
Jans and the Aggies would like to play at least two games before their WAC opener. NMSU is also open to playing non-league games into January and February.
“We just don’t have game experience,” said Jans. “These guys aren’t used to playing with each other when the lights are on. Guys aren’t used to that type of pressure and that a problem.”
Basketball aside, Jans and his coaching staff know how important it was for their staff to host some type of Christmas celebration, keeping everyone’s spirits high. NMSU, who will continue to work to schedule non-conference games, will also plan something similar for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day for their student/athletes — much of which is made possible through private donations in the athletic department’s ‘Donate 4 State’ campaign. To date, NMSU has raised nearly $90,000.