Youth and high school basketball coaches, players, families putting pressure on Gov. Sisolak to let them play

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Posted at 10:06 PM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 09:58:19-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Professional sports have begun welcoming back fans. Several NCAA basketball tournaments are in Las Vegas this week.

And yet, youth and high school basketball teams are still unable to compete. Across Southern Nevada, coaches, players and families are putting a full-court press on Gov. Steve Sisolak to allow youth and high school teams to compete.

"We have to do something and we gotta do it quick," said Paul Blair, head coach at Spring Valley High School."It's still salvageable."

The Nevada Basketball Coaches Association posted a petition on last week, which has more than 1,000 signatures. For unsigned seniors like Jalen Cunningham, the stakes are high.

"One game, a coach could see you and like what he sees and might offer you," Cunningham said, of the potential scholarship offers that could come from getting an opportunity to compete in Nevada now.

So what's the hold up?

Under Gov. Sisolak's latest guidance on youth sports, basketball is still classified as a high-risk, full-contact sport. If we were just talking high school basketball, games and tournaments could resume under rules laid out by the Nevada Interscholastic Athletics Associations. But CCSD already canceled winter sports so that's not an option.

The Nevada Basketball Coaches Association is trying to bring back a condensed season for high school teams, but because they're not under NIAA jurisdiction, they can't.

Meanwhile, lacrosse was recently moved from high risk to intermediate and can resume competition.

"I wonder how come we can't also have the opportunity to go out and play," Cunningham said, of watching basketball players in other states compete and NCAA tournaments happen in town. "Because that's taken away from all the other kids that are either unsigned or the kids that don't have the opportunity to travel."

Cunningham plays for Coronado High School and Coronado's club team Air Nado, which has the resources to travel for tournaments. He and Coach Blair from Spring Valley High School say many kids in Vegas haven't had that chance.

"The opportunity is being taken away and you don't get that back," said Blair.

So what is their message to Gov. Sisolak?

"Give the state and the children of this state a chance to prove ourselves and let them play safely. We know that we have to do safety protocols. Just give us a chance," said Blair.

Gov. Sisolak's office said he was not available for an interview Tuesday. His office sent the most recent guidance as a response to why NCAA tournaments can happen, but high school and youth basketball can't.