UM's Juwan Howard, Oakland's Greg Kampe join effort to restart high school basketball

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The state's college basketball community is coming together to support their high-school counterparts, as the state continues to put a pause on the prep hoops season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michigan men's coach Juwan Howard was the latest and most prominent to voice his support for high schoolers in a Twitter post Monday.

Michigan coach Juwan Howard

"These young athletes, especially the seniors, were looking forward to a great school year and competitive season," Howard wrote. "The continued delays are disappointing, as many of these young men and women are relying on a successful season to help them earn a college scholarship and pursue their lifelong dreams."

Howard, in his five-paragraph post, also stressed that health and safety should take priority over all decisions.

The start of the Michigan high school basketball season has been delayed numerous times, the latest directive from the Department of Health and Human Services pushing the start date to Feb. 21. The decision comes even as the state has cleared kids to return to school for in-person learning. Michigan is one of two states not playing basketball; Indiana starts its playoffs this week.

Michigan did allow football to complete its state championships last month.

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Oakland men's basketball coach Greg Kampe was one of the first to write a letter in support, at the request of high school basketball coaches.

He said, "We support our leaders and their decisions, now we ask you to support us."

"I am not a scientist of a politician," Kampe, who battled COVID-19 before the start of his season, wrote in a Twitter post last week. "The last 10 months have been hard on all of us, and most have battled and lived by the rules our leaders have put in place. College athletes get this year back, there have stimulus checks for many, and unemployment benefits to others.

"Yet nothing for these (high school) students. They lose the year and benefits of sport."

Central Michigan women's basketball coach Heather Oesterle also joined the vocal effort, writing on Twitter, "Kids in our state should have a high school basketball season."

"I believe they will hold themselves accountable and their teammates accountable for COVID safety protocols," Oesterle wrote, adding the hashtag #LetThemPlay.

Also on pause are competitive cheer, ice hockey and wrestling. The decision has caused an uproar in the high school sports community. The legislature passed a resolution calling for sports to resume, and on Saturday, thousands gathered at the state Capitol in Lansing to protest the decision.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984