BARBOURVILLE — Basketball coaches across the Tri-County have had to adapt to the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their respective programs.

Knox Central Basketball Coach Tony Patterson’s Panthers are among those teams.

Knox Central is coming off one of the best seasons in program history. The Panthers captured their second straight 13th Region Tournament championship while continuing their dominance in the 51st District. They also finished the season with a 25-8 record.

Patterson’s squad is expected to be one of the top teams again in 2020-2021, but a later start to any type of workouts, combined with no summer basketball games being played, could play a role if Knox Central can three-peat as regional champions.

“It’s a small setback for some kids but most of my kids were working on their weight training and doing skill work,” Patterson said.

The COVID-19 pandemic not only canceled the team’s summer games but also canceled Knox Central’s basketball camp as well.

“Our camps were done basically free for the kids,” Patterson said. “We charged just enough to pay for the camper’s meals and t-shirts. So we didn’t make hardly any money on camps. Our main focus in camp was to create a fun basketball experience for all campers and staff while teaching a winning culture.”

With workouts now taking place, Patterson said he’s excited to get things going.

“I was very excited and couldn’t wait to see the boys and just talk to them and ask about their lives during this time of COVID-19,” he said. “This pandemic has hopefully put things into perspective for America. God is No. 1, Family No. 2, and everything else after. I’ve been able to just slow down and reflect on life and think of ways to improve lately and it’s been great. Time is also very precious to me and I don’t think we should sit around and waist a second of it.

“To me, basketball comes after relationships,” he added. “Relationships are very important to me. I push them to be the best they can be and I get the most out of them. This year proved just that. Not many people gave us a chance but I always believed in my team. I love these young men and cherish the time that I’m able to spend with them. I thank God for what we’ve been able to accomplish up to this point and I give him all the honor and glory for it.”

Editor’s note: Today’s story is a part of a series of stories the staff of the Sentinel-Echo and Times-Tribune sports departments will be running for the next few weeks from head coaches of boys and girls programs in the Tri-County.

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