Merritt Hempe traveled home from Spain the day before European countries were locked up due to the spread of COVID-19.
Rashard Kelly took shelter in his apartment in Trento, Italy, for two weeks before he traveled six hours to Rome and flew to New York City with his girlfriend and 5-month-old son last month.
Tristan “T.T.” Carey arrived at the remote JFK International Airport on March 12 from Switzerland and was able to board the plane earlier than 9:17 pm. flight schedule to Washington because the airport was so empty.
“We might have 20 people on the plane,” Carey said. “That is the fastest I have ever gotten in a trunk, if that says something.”
Three former regional basketball stars — Fredericksburg — were all playing professionally in Europe when the coronavirus pandemic paralyzed much of the world.
They say that they have followed the right protocol since returning to the United States, which is now as severe as the country where they appeared.
“There are some girls in our league who don’t know officially but have symptoms,” Hempe said. “An American player is worried he has it.”
SHINING BEFORE SHUTDOWN
Hempe is a former staff member who later played for Georgia University. He was the starting center for Mann-Filter in Spain and the team’s highest average in points (12.7 per game) and rebound (7.2) before being suspended after 22 matches.
Kelly, a product of Spotsylvania County and Wichita State, was in her first season with Aquila Basket Trento and averaged 10.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
Carey has played for Lugano Tigers three of the last four years. The former Colonial Beach star averages 12.9 points in 27.2 minutes per contest in 20 matches for Lugano this season.
Hempe said he was reading everywhere that the airport would be “crazy,” but when he left Madrid, “That was the fastest I had gone through in security.” When Hempe arrived in the U.S. on March 15, he was given instructions on what to do. He left the country which on Saturday had 161,852 cases of corona virus and 16,353 deaths.
“I had to quarantine myself for 14 days,” Hempe said. “I went home and stayed away. I did not go or approach anyone other than my family. “
In mid-March, Kelly and her team reached an agreement for him to go home. Kelly said only seven other passengers on his plane from Rome to New York. He then went to Atlanta before going on to the final flight to Tulsa, Okla., Where he currently lives.
Kelly said he was considering living in Italy before a conversation with his pastor, Reverend Dwayne Robinson of the House of Victory church in Fredericksburg, convinced him to return.
Italy is at the forefront of a pandemic. As of Saturday, the country had 147,577 cases and 18,849 deaths.
Trento had 2,708 cases but five of the 17 teams in the Serie A league that Kelly played were based in Lombardy, which had 56,048 cases and 10,238 deaths.
“My pastor basically just said, ‘If you don’t go, do you think you will be fine there for another six months?'” Kelly said. “It’s longer than I expected to be there, so that type helps me make a decision.”
RELATIONSHIP BACK WITH FAMILY
Kelly said in Tulsa he wakes up every day on a large plot of land. He drives a four-wheeled vehicle, throws the ball around and finds time to exercise. He said by not focusing too much on basketball, he learned to be a better father to Rashard Jr.
“I enjoyed time with my son and brought down this father’s problem,” he said. “You don’t want to eat too much and become a couch potato, so I also try to run and exercise every day.”
Hempe also enjoys family time.
She was at home in Stafford County with her parents and sister, Alexi, who had just finished her first season with the South Dakota women’s basketball team. Hempe said that he had helped his parents around the house. He laughed as he recalled how his father called him to his room last week for “computer help;” it turns out he only needs to copy and paste. It was made for funny tweets.
Hempe also has an outdoor exercise routine promoted by Mann-Filter on Twitter. He played basketball solos at Brooks Park in southern Stafford before the court closed.
Hempe noted that his team’s season had not been officially canceled. He said he would return to Spain if called to return because he was still under contract.
“I just do what I can to stay in shape,” he said.
Carey returned home March 12.
Switzerland has 24,900 coronavirus cases and 1,015 deaths. But Carey said that the country’s closeness to Italy made it rather uncomfortable. Nations are bordering each other.
“In Switzerland, we are all fine, but everyone is going crazy at how quickly it spreads in Italy,” Carey said. “Everyone says it’s the best, you go out because when you get to Switzerland, it will spread quickly.”
Carey is now in the Montross area of Westmoreland County. He said he stayed away from shooting circles, even individually, because one person could attract a crowd.
He spends his time doing bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups and sit-ups. He also continued to run. Carey said he would rather improve his condition than basketball practice.
He said in Torrey Smith Park in his hometown on the Colonial Coast, residents were worried about public meetings.
“All it takes is one person and many people will come,” Carey said. “There’s nothing to do today or tonight, but I’m just trying not to be around too many people.”
OTHER PLAYERS ALSO PUT ON HOLD
Fredericksburg Christian and Virginia Tech Seth Allen graduates averaged 17.3 points per game for JuveCaserta in Italy this season. Allen could not be reached for comment, but his former youth league coach, Craig Boothe, said he was at home in Woodbridge.
Former Courtland and Oregon standout Waverly Austin played five matches for Chemidor in Iran this season but hasn’t appeared in the contest since February 3. He is also not available for comment.
Kelly has just started her career and wants to continue overseas. Carey and Hempe said they weigh their future every year.
In reflecting on this period away from the game, Kelly believes that downtime might be a good thing because it allows it to rearrange its priorities.
“Before this many athletes and the working class did not experience much rest,” Kelly said. “We rested and refocused on what was truly important, and that was around the family.”