PARK HILLS, Ky. — Covington Catholic senior point guard Reece Murphy wasn't surprised when the Kentucky high school winter sports season was paused in mid-November during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, the fact that the season was delayed until early January was more significant to him personally since he is in his final year of high school basketball.
Every game has the potential to add to his Hudlhighlights with the intention of playing at the next level.
"Instead of waiting for the (college) coaches to come to you or seeing if they will come to you, I guess you've got to put yourself out there more, reach out, talk to coaches, get in people's ear instead of waiting," Murphy said.
College recruiting is already a difficult journey for several high school seniors, but the pandemic added another layer of uncertainty.
"For most coaches, I think there is a responsibility that, if a kid truly wants to play the next level, we can help them do that," CovCath coach Scott Ruthsatz said.
"Some it's going to be purely financial reasons. If you can get a full-ride scholarship and continue your college education, that's great. There are some that want to play because they are competitive. They're going to play anyway. Because coaches can't see you the communication has to be more frequent than it normally is."
Many high school seniors aren't able to take in-person campus visits. The NCAA extended the recruiting dead period for all Division I sports through April 15.
"I don't think there is a person that doesn't acknowledge -- our hearts go out to these kids and what they're going through," Ruthsatz said.
"Especially, you say, these high school years, because you don't get these back. A lot of these college football players, basketball players, Division I players are going to get another year. These guys don't get a repeat. So they're moving along one way or another.
CovCath (29-5 in 2019-20), a state tournament qualifier last season, is able to start practice on its own court Dec. 14. Its first game is scheduled for Jan. 5, when the Colonels host Ryle.
CovCath held two blue-white instrasquad scrimmages in November, but the early portion of December has been learning plays and sets through 30-minute Zoom or Microsoft virtual meetings.
"It's just one of those things where when we hit the ground running, hopefully on Dec. 14, that the time frame of the dress rehearsal has been cut really short," Ruthsatz said.
"They got to know the plays. They got to be much more on top of those things instead of having to maybe do more of those in practice. You got to know them. We're trying to try to get as game-like as possible right from the 14th."
Ruthsatz and the CovCath program have gotten creative in helping with college recruiting.
Ruthsatz considered a small combine with box jumps, vertical jumps and dribbling exercises where players could display their physical skills without playing in a practice or game.
But, after Ruthsatz's daily conversations with college coaches, the focus has been on film.
"The videos are the biggest thing right now, because I asked a bunch of coaches: Chris Mack, Darrin Horn here locally, John Brannen, Ryan Pedon up at Ohio State," Ruthsatz said. "And I said to them, 'What can we do to help get our kids seen?'"
CovCath utilized some visual editing assistance with a professional camera for the final scrimmage in November. They've also helped the players with graphics and music to add to their Hudl film.
"That's really the main thing we're doing in order to get these kids seen is we're clipping our games, and now we're sending them out," Ruthsatz said.
"Saying, 'Hey, here's some of our guys. You saw them last year at the end of the season or maybe last year at some point – you didn't get to see them all summer, but here's where they're at.'"
CovCath senior guard Donovan Stocks has been working with a trainer in Cincinnati. He's gotten stronger and added weight in addition to working toward improving his shot.
Saginaw Valley State and Thomas More University have offered scholarships to Stocks while Miami University, Kentucky Wesleyan, Christian Brothers University and Transylvania University are showing interest, Ruthsatz said.
"Just staying ready," Stocks said. "Doing things on our own. Staying in shape most importantly."
Ruthsatz has encouraged players to watch as much basketball as possible, whether that's high school footage or college games on TV.
Everything is geared toward improving their basketball IQ and being ready physically and mentally for practice to start Dec. 14.
"I can't wait," Murphy said. "I know everyone on the team can't wait. We will go and get some lunch or something, hanging out, just something low key. And it always comes up: I can't wait to play with this guy or I can't wait to play with this guy. We're all just so close together that I think that will really click when we get on the court."