After taking a 62-54 win over Weber State University in the first round of the Big Sky Tournament, the Sacramento State men’s basketball team was prepared to take on the number one seed.
The Hornets were prepped and ready to go out and play in their quarter-final matchup against Eastern Washington University when, just hours before the match, their season was shut down due to concerns over COVID-19.
“We were actually on the bus, players were all dressed,” coach Brian Katz said. “The bus was about to roll and then I got the call from (Director of Athletics) Mark Orr.”
Katz said it was a tough blow for many reasons, one of them being the opportunity to knock down the number one seed in the tournament. Sac State and Eastern Washington were very competitive this season, with the Eagles edging the matchup by just six points in 80 minutes of playing time.
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Another reason was the fact that his team had just had their hopes of an NCAA tournament bid getting wiped away by the pandemic. Katz said he had to be there for them in that bus.
“You got some guys crying,” Katz said.
Katz has been a part of the Sac State community for over a decade and agreed in principle to a multi-year contract extension with the Hornets on March 24. The full details of the contract will be released when it is finalized.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” Katz said. “I’ve lived here 90% of my life. I have 12 years invested.”
The Sac State community has been in support of Katz and were letting their voices be heard at games, wearing “KEEP KATZ” T-shirts. Through his 12 year tenure at Sac State, Katz has left his mark at the school and with his players.
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Stockton Kings’ guard Cody Demps, who played for Katz from 2012-2016, said that he was happy to hear about Katz’s extension and that it was long awaited.
“He definitely had a big part in my growth as a person and basketball player,” Demps said.
Katz had an impressive season with his guys finishing the season ranked fifth in defense, allowing an average of just under 60 points per game. The team also dominated at the Nest finishing with a 10 – 4 home record.
The NCAA made the decision on March 30 to grant the athletes of spring sports an extra year of eligibility however, this decision did not include basketball. The regular season was completed for men’s basketball, but it is a big loss for the NCAA and the college basketball community since no team was crowned champion at the end.
“In the end, everyone is playing for the dream of March Madness,” Katz said.
Although, Katz said he understands that the implications go deeper than just granting the students another year to play the sport. With seniors getting that option for an extra year, the team will have extra players when the freshman arrive.
This affects the budgets for scholarships and would lead to higher team expenses.
“You would be oversigned, which is more money, which is obviously an issue at the point,” Katz said.
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Looking forward to next season, Katz said he will be looking for people like junior Bryce Fowler and sophomore Brandon Davis to step up and lead by example for the Hornets. Katz said that Fowler has been on a steady upward progression and has become a trusted scorer on the floor with his versatility.
Fowler understands what his head coach wants out of him going into this next season.
“Katz has told me a lot of times the amount of confidence he has in me and that has really helped my game,” Fowler said.
Katz announced on April 15 that the Hornets signed three transfer students from the junior college level.
Katz said that the camp would normally take place right after the fourth of July holiday weekend or the first week of the second summer school session, but, due to shelter-at-home orders, is he unsure when the team can start their training camp.