International basketball player opts out of fall season

Andrew+Stagni+shoots+a+layup+while+warming+up+for+practice+in+Loyola%E2%80%99s+sports+complex+Wednesday+Sept.+30.++The+men%27s+basketball+team+is+starting+the+season+without+senior+forward+Josh+Leaney.+Photo+credit%3A+Will+Ingram

Andrew Stagni shoots a layup while warming up for practice in Loyola’s sports complex Wednesday Sept. 30. The men’s basketball team is starting the season without senior forward Josh Leaney. Photo credit: Will Ingram

Will Ingram

Josh Leaney, senior basketball player, decided not to return to the United States from Australia this semester over COVID-19 safety concerns, leaving the Wolf Pack without one of their leaders.

Leaney said that the decision was hard, but was partly made for him because of the restrictions that Australia has put in place to stop the spread of the virus,

“Australia has made it ridiculously hard to travel,” said Leaney.

According to the Australian health website, there is a ban on international travel unless a person receives an exemption. Leaney said that an exemption can be expensive and hard to get.

Even though having to get the exemption made it tough for Leaney to leave the country, his final decision came down to something much more important.

“My final decision was about my safety. My own safety was more important than going back to play basketball and be at school,” said Leaney.

Leaney had been a key component to the team while at Loyola. Coach Stacy Hollowell said that he is like a coach on the floor.

“The guys listen to him because he is saying the right things and doing the right things,” said Hollowell.

Andrew Fava, senior business major and teammate, said that Leaney was the guy to talk to the coaches and then he would relay the messages to the team. Fava also said that if the team needed to do something or be somewhere, Leaney was the one to make sure that it happened.

Coach Hollowell said that he hopes to have Leaney’s leadership back for the spring semester.

“Hopefully we only miss it for the month of November, and he is back in January,” said Hollowell.

While Leaney’s leadership will be missed, coach Hollowell expects that everyone on the team will do their part so that the team does not miss a beat.

“We have a really nice crop of young guys,” said Hollowell. “Guys that just want to win and do what is best for the team.”

Fava said that the team wishes that Leaney was here this semester but that having those players that want what is best for the team is something that is important for this fall semester.

“We have other guys that can fill in and step up,” said Fava.

For the men’s basketball team, the spring semester is what will count according to Fava. He said that the coaches told the team that their entire conference schedule will be played during the spring semester.

“Him not being here now is not that huge of a deal, as long as he is back in the spring when we are playing our conference games. Then, hopefully, he will be ready to go,” said Fava.

Leaney said that even if he were at school this semester, he does not know how safe playing competitive basketball would be.

“I don’t think it’s very safe, especially in those sports where there is a lot of contact. One case across one team could spread to three different schools in two weeks,” said Leaney.

While New Orleans is transitioning into a new phase of reopening, Leaney said that people need to realize and see the significance of this virus.

“Just because we are returning to some kind of normality does not mean that it will be the same normality,” said Leaney.

He also said that people need to realize just how this virus can affect people.

“You can affect a lot of people in a way that they do not want to be affected,” said Leaney. “It is more about to think about others than thinking about ourselves when it comes to this.”