WINNIPEG -- Basketball players across the province are inching closer to a return to the hardwood, but it’s a slow crawl.

“They say (it’s) going from zero to sixty,” said Basketball Manitoba Executive Director, Adam Wedlake. “We’re maybe going from zero to six - it’s pretty slow.”

Last week, Canada Basketball released its latest guidelines for Canadians to return to the sport, and it most notably excludes any kind of game scenario, whether competitive or in practice.

“It’s a return to the sport, basically in a training component.” Wedlake said. “The best way to describe it is social distanced practicing.”

Players will be expected to regularly monitor themselves for any symptoms of COVID-19 and will follow several strict guidelines upon return.

Players will be expected to:

  • practice with no more than two people at one basket
  • bring their own basketball and water bottles
  • refrain from passing their ball to other players
  • maintain physical distancing between other players and coaches.

“It will basically be shooting and ball-handling, dribbling drills and skills at least for the first few months.”

Wedlake believes these measures will remain in place until at least this fall, though the plan still needs to be approved by Manitoba health officials and Sport Manitoba.

The next challenge will be securing facilities for practices. Wedlake says Basketball Manitoba is keeping an eye on what the Manitoba High School Sports Association will decide when it comes to high school basketball in the fall, as gymnasiums used for practices are in schools.

“We’re a pretty heavy school-based sport,” Wedlake said. “What’s going to happen in the school system? Will there be school teams? Will the school system allow us to rent and get into their facilities on evenings and weekends?”

Manitoba Basketball isn’t the only entity with questions. The Manitoba Association of Basketball Officials has little information on how their jobs will change when play resumes. Supervisor of operations Mike Maryk says while local referees don’t have any major concerns to this point, there is speculation among officials as to what can be expected.

“You can look at potentially wearing gloves to avoid contact and stuff like that, but of course, how we communicate is with hand signals so it would certainly bring an interesting dynamic to it,” Maryk said.

While he contends having officials wearing masks during play would be near impossible based on the fact they obligated to have a whistle in their mouth throughout the game, he also wonders how sanitizing balls will come in to play.

“Depending on the level (you officiate) you let the captains check out the ball to see what it’s like, see if they like it," said Maryk.

“You would hate to be like ‘ok this stoppage we are going to switch and use this ball now while the other one gets taken out’ that would be a huge determent to the game, yet I say that and it could be the rule for all I know. Who knows what the foreseeable future brings?”

Basketball Manitoba is aiming to get players back on the court under these guidelines early next month, it does not expect games to be introduced into the return plan until much further down the road. Although Wedlake says the three-on-three game, or 3x3, may return sooner as it is mostly played outdoors. However, there is no timeline for when that may happen.