Last week, sports abruptly screeched to a halt.
The NBA suspended its season. The ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament were canceled. Other professional and collegiate sports followed suit amid the coronavirus outbreak.
For fans, it was a shocking change.
For players, it was even tougher.
“You kind of don’t know what to do with your life. You’re just hanging out in the house all day missing basketball, not being able to watch basketball, not being able to play,” Phoenix Suns guard Ty Jerome said. “It’s just what I’ve done all my life, what I do now every day, so without it you kind of don’t know what to do.”
Jerome, who helped lead the Virginia men’s basketball team to a national championship last season, had his rookie season at least temporarily cut short by the suspension of the NBA season. The NBA is currently looking at a wait of at least several months before restarting the season.
With more free time and the Suns’ basketball facility closed, Jerome is looking for things to do. Over the past few days, Jerome says he’s watched movies as well as highlights from Virginia’s national title run a season ago. He’s also making videos on TikTok in his free time.
When he’s not watching old highlights or trying to become a viral sensation, Jerome plays video games, including some Fortnite and Call of Duty sessions with former teammates Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter.
“To be honest, none of us are that good,” Jerome admitted. “It changes on any given day. It’s more like social hour for us.”
The trio uses the time to chat about what’s happening with the world and professional basketball and “how crazy this is.” All three have seen the first seasons of their professional careers halted by unprecedented events.
With the spread of the coronavirus changing on a daily basis, it’s hard to know what the immediate future holds for the NBA. What is certain for players like Hunter, Guy and Jerome is that they’re going through a strange time that involves a break from playing and watching live basketball that they haven’t experienced since they were little kids.
“We’re all kind of going through the same thing,” Jerome said. “Basketball has been at the center of our lives for pretty much our whole lives.”
Being just a year removed from playing college basketball and attending UVa, Jerome also paid attention to news affecting college hoops.
He watched as the NBA season was suspended. A night later, the ACC Tournament was canceled. Later that day, the NCAA Tournament was canceled as well. Jerome talked with UVa’s current point guard, Kihei Clark, about the events.
“I’m still super close with Kihei, so I talk with Kihei probably the most of anybody,” Jerome said. “They were just devastated. I feel so bad for Mamadi [Diakite] and Braxton [Key]. They work so hard and they turned the year around.”
Jerome kept tabs on UVa’s season, and he knew the Cavaliers were trending in the right direction with postseason play around the corner. Virginia had won eight consecutive games leading up to the ACC Tournament.
“You just want to have the experience and that’s what you work so hard for,” Jerome said, “so for that to be canceled and for them not to be able to play, it’s gotta be devastating.”
Jerome and some of the current players went through the devastation of losing to UMBC two seasons ago. While the loss was heartbreaking, the Cavaliers had a chance to compete in the Big Dance. They earned another chance the next season and turned the opportunity into a national title and one of the best turnaround stories in March.
This season, the Wahoos didn’t have a chance to play in March Madness.
“I was devastated I couldn’t make a bracket,” Jerome said, “so I can’t imagine how all the guys feel, especially the seniors.”