There is no sound of basketballs echoing off the walls at Ferriday and Vidalia high school football gyms.
Ferriday and Vidalia principals and basketball coaches decided to cancel their seasons as COVID-19 showed no signs of letting up -- of actually gaining momentum with vaccines still months away for most people.
The dreaded virus cut short spring sports last year, hampered football schedules throughout last fall, and now has canceled basketball seasons at Vidalia and Ferriday.
"It's strange not practicing basketball, but we're living in strange and dangerous times," said Ferriday boys coach George Barnes. "It would hurt my heart if we went somewhere and a kid caught it and brought it back to a grandmother, it would break my heart. We're just airing on the side of caution and feel it is the safest decision."
Certainly all basketball coaches at Ferriday and Vidalia feel bad for their team, especially the seniors.
But you would have a hard time finding someone dealing with the setback worse than Ferriday senior Jaquan Wilson.
As a sophomore, Wilson started at guard for Vidalia, averaging 18.8 points a game and earning All-Parish honors.
He was the lone boys player from Vidalia or Ferriday to earn first team All-District 2-2A honors.
Wilson sat out last season per Louisiana High School Athletic Association guidelines after transferring to Ferriday High. His mother is a teacher at Ferriday High and Jaquan was looking to improve his academics under the tutelage of his mom.
"Sitting out last year was new to me," Wilson said. "I was watching teams play and it hit me hard. But I dealt with it."
He was all set to return to the basketball court this season before COVID-19 shut basketball down at Ferriday High.
"I was so fired up," Wilson said."It's tough because I'm not used to it. "But I'm handling it better than I thought I would."
What helped ease the pain was being able to play AAU basketball this past summer.
"I feel different, but I still have that drive," Wilson said. "I will never lose that drive. I still work out and I still push myself."
With Wilson returning to the court along with senior guard Jamarrius Johnson, the 2019-20 Parish Player of the Year, and seniors Derrick Johnson and Javarious Turner, Ferriday was all set to make a run in District 2-2A, as well as in the state playoffs.
There’s no doubt the Trojans would have been the biggest challenge to Rayville in District 2-2A. The Hornets are predictably sitting at the top of Class 2A power rankings this week. Doyle, Port Allen and Rapides are also ranked very high.
But those teams will not have to worry about having to get past Ferriday this season. If there is a completed season, that is. What a lot of people don’t understand is that playing in a small, warm gym is a lot different than playing outside in a football stadium.
Wilson has thought about walking on to a small school, but is leaning more toward attending junior college and playing basketball.
"I think attending a junior college would help me elevate my game more," Wilson said. I'm still expecting to do big things. I am going to make the best out of all this. But it has been tough. Man, I can't wait to get back on the court again."
And I can't wait for basketball fans to see what they have been missing these last two years. Jaquan Wilson is a survivor. And his passion for the game will last much longer than COVID-19. He's just patiently waiting to show that passion on a court where the sounds of dribbling a basketball will be drowned out by fans clapping and screaming. That will be well worth the wait.