The Runnin’ Rebels Are Back on Their Feet

After a year of inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stuyvesant boys’ basketball team, the Runnin’ Rebels, is finally back in action.

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After a year of inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stuyvesant’s boys’ basketball team, the Runnin’ Rebels, is finally back in action. The year-long hiatus provided the players with additional time to work on their skills and prepare for their next season. It gave them even more motivation to redeem themselves after a tough 2019-2020 season that saw them go 1-15. When it was announced that PSAL sports would return in early April, players and coaches alike were eager to get back on the court. It marked the start of another opportunity to compete against rival schools and fight their way through the tough Manhattan division.

In accordance with the life-altering effects of COVID-19, this year’s Rebels bring a new look with them onto the court––a stark contrast to previous years. The most notable of these changes is the larger roster in comparison to years prior. The official roster currently stands at a grand total of 25 players. In the 2019-2020 and 2018-2019 seasons, the rosters stood at 17 and 13, respectively. This year’s roster also includes a large number of underclassmen (15 to be exact). This new dynamic and willingness to accept more players by new head coach Charles Sewell provide more depth to the team and flexibility for when players aren’t able to make it to games during this odd season.

This season has also provided challenges to the players who travel from all over the city to go to practices and games. Since a large number of students attend school remotely, rather than in-person, these players are forced to travel from their homes scattered across all five boroughs to Manhattan to meet up. “The level of commitment has been very impressive,” Sewell said. “Everyone on the team is attending school remotely. As such, some have as much as a 90-minute commute to and from practice. Most have at least an hour. Yet attendance at practice has been excellent […] The commitment we’ve seen speaks volumes about the determination of this group.” This dedication demonstrates the effect of PSAL sports on student-athletes and the students’ eagerness to return back to action after such a long absence.

The team has also dealt with challenges on the court. Due to basketball being regarded as a “high-risk” sport by the PSAL as a result of the frequent contact between participants, most of the Rebels’ games have been played outdoors. Whether there is heat, wind, or rain, the players have been forced to remain focused and persevere through these circumstances, despite outside disturbances.

The team has also been challenged with other COVID-19 protocols put in place by the PSAL. Other than a ban on common sportsmanship practices such as handshakes, fist bumps, and high fives, social distancing measures must be enforced for pregame activity and bench areas, and facial coverings must be worn at all times, even for those who are on the court. “Wearing masks has complicated on-court communication and made basketball skill development drills and conditioning drills significantly more difficult,” Sewell said.

Since the second week of April, the Rebels have been practicing hard for their 2021 season. They participated in five outdoor scrimmages with teams from other schools in May and early June, and they have also had the opportunity to play two non-league games and two league games on indoor courts. The players were grateful and excited for the opportunity to participate in real matches, but the games have shown that the Rebels struggle to score consistently on offense as they weren’t able to score more than 30 points in both of their league games. “Our biggest challenge has been scoring with consistency. Oddly enough, since we’ve moved inside for games, we’ve struggled to put the ball in the hoop,” Sewell said.

Starting shooting guard and junior Philip Phan expressed similar sentiments. “Our offense is pretty sloppy right now,” he said. “[The opposing] team usually goes on runs during the third and fourth quarters when we can’t convert our shots.” He did note, however, that there were also many areas in which the Rebels improved, most notably their ball movement, effort, and defense.

Though the team is still focused on winning games, the general consensus among the players and coach has been that this season is more about team development than winning. “We want to provide an opportunity for our seniors to enjoy representing their school in one final abbreviated season. We also want to help the underclassmen develop their basketball skills and understanding of the game,” Sewell said. This focus on underclassmen will undoubtedly pay off in the future as they will have built up a strong culture of commitment.

With many promising young players on the team, as well as a new coach who is committed to improving the play of the Rebels, the future of the team looks bright. In the upcoming years, they will look to improve their standings in the Manhattan V league and possibly even qualify for the playoffs. It’s a tall order, but there is no doubt that the Runnin’ Rebels can get it done.