'We're a big family': Minneapolis North Polars embrace return to the court

The North Minneapolis boys' basketball team practices while wearing masks amid the pandemic. (FOX 9)

After spending 312 days apart, the North High School boys' basketball team is finally back on the court.

"It’s been great to get with everybody and have that bond come closer and get ready for the season," said CJ Brown, a player on the team.

The Polars were just one game away from the state tournament when their season was cut short because of the pandemic last spring. The players are glad to return to the gym after the governor's restrictions on youth sports were dialed back, allowing the team to practice and compete.

"We're a big family," said Coach Larry McKenzie. "We spend a lot of time together, so this year we weren't able to have our Christmas holiday party and none of the family things we typically do as a basketball program, so that's been a big adjustment."

Coach McKenzie says the players are getting used to two-a-day practices, wearing masks and not having fans in the stands. Since they've been in distance learning since COVID-19 hit Minnesota, they are happy to be together in-person, instead of only in online classes and Zoom team meetings.

"I think it's going to be challenging to play in masks," said McKenzie. "I think it's going to be challenging for me to coach in a mask. I think the alternative was to wait it out and possibly not have a season at all." 

Players believe it won't take long for the Polars to bounce back.

"I want to finish our season from start to end and play every team we are supposed to play and hope to win another state championship put it on our banner with or without masks," said Brown.

The team is following other safety protocols like social distancing and sanitizing their hands after every drill. The Polars’ first game is on Jan. 25.