Stella Johnson on Rider University’s Crushed Tournamant Dreams

Who would have ever thought that the NCAA would ever cancel winter and spring sports? When I heard the news, I immediately thought of all my friends who are seniors and texted them to see how they’re doing. One specific person is my close friend Stella Johnson. Stella plays basketball at Rider University. She had her best year yet becoming All American, two-time Player of the Year, led the nation in scoring, surpassed 2,000 points and was named ECAC sports Player of the Year. I talked to Stella regarding how she felt during this unusual time. With the help from her, I put myself in Stella shoes, reacting towards the news of the cancelation of March Madness.

It was late Thursday night on March 12 I was at the Hard Rock Hotel in Atlantic City getting ready for our conference tournament when I found out that our conference tournament and March Madness was canceled due to Covid-19. I didn’t believe it. We all sat in the hotel room, just waiting for our coach to get a call or for one of us to see it on social media to make it official. Most of my teammates were sad and in shock. Girls left the room, not saying anything at all. All I could think was, this isn’t real, this can’t be happening. It was just crazy to me that one of the biggest events every year was to be canceled on both sides, Women and Men.

This is my senior year at Rider University. Possibly my last chance of playing. This season, Rider was 1st in the MAAC conference where we most likely would have had a bid in the tournament. For my teammates and I, it was our goal from day one. It would’ve been huge for us to make the tournament. It would’ve been a first for many of the players and for the program. Just being able to experience the selection show would’ve been amazing. As a college player, you dream of hearing your team called out on TV. Not a lot of teams can experience that.

As much as I would have loved to play, I do agree with the decision. I believe if they didn’t do it, it would’ve been shut down by the government. We don’t want to spread the virus. It was a safe decision for the health of the players, coaches, refs and their families. For now, I am still training hoping to achieve my goal and get a chance to play professionally in the league and overseas. There are still many questions floating around asking what the NCAA would do for the winter athletes. If the NCAA granted seniors of winter sports 1 more year of eligibility, I don’t know what I would do. The seniors at Rider became my family so my decision would depend on what they do.

My season ended abruptly. There wasn’t a proper goodbye. For the rest of my life I will be thinking about what could have been? Rider could have been cutting the nets at Boardwalk Hall. I still can’t believe this happened and I don’t think I ever will.