Cinco Ranch junior offensive lineman Ethan Onianwa recently verbally committed to Rice. It was somewhat of a surprise, considering Onianwa only has 10 games of varsity football under his belt and his recruiting process was stunted by restrictions due to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
“The current coronavirus outbreak affected my recruiting experience a lot,” Onianwa said. “Due to the current epidemic, I wasn’t able to visit colleges and have coaches come to our spring practices. It most definitely made it harder to learn about programs from the players and coaches there.”
COVID-19 prevented college coaches from going on the road to recruit and closed campuses, which disallowed visits by recruits. It also canceled spring football, a time of the year when college coaches can visit high school campuses to watch practices and talk to high school coaches about players.
Still, Onianwa was able to secure his future in a sport he only started taking seriously in middle school, in large part because he’s a tantalizing physical prospect. Onianwa stands 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds. He’s also only 16 years old.
More nerve-wracking than any pressure shot was the recruiting obstacles a global pandemic presented to Tompkins senior golfer Zach Asaro this spring.
When the high school golf season was postponed in mid-March and then eventually canceled less than a month later, it stunted an impressive season for Asaro, an all-district performer. He was hoping to strut his swing at the district and, hopefully, regional and state meets, searching for a scholarship offer from a bigger school after receiving interest from NAIA and NCAA Division III programs.
Those meets never took place. But Asaro, through persistent mobile and virtual contact with University of New Orleans men’s golf coach Jeff Lorio and leaning upon the faith and trust of sights and a program unseen, earned that shot at a better school, committing May 1 to play for the Privateers, a NCAA Division I program in the Southland Conference.
At around 4:30 on a hot Friday, May 1, afternoon, more than 30 vehicles were parked at Stanley Elementary. Parents, junior varsity players and other supporters of the Seven Lakes High baseball program started decorating their cars, trucks and jeeps with balloons, ribbons, self-made congratulatory signs and player banners.
On what was supposed to be “Senior Night” for the 16 Spartan seniors at their last regular season home game, a surprise drive-by organized by loved ones instead took place. Precautions for the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, forced the UIL to cancel its remaining spring sports season, including high school baseball, last month.
The Spartans’ senior players never got a chance to play their last home baseball game and enjoy their “Senior Night,” when seniors and their parents are recognized by coach J.R. Voyles prior to the game for their contributions to a program that is, year in and year out, one of the finest in the region.
The inevitable occurred on the afternoon of Friday, April 17, but it didn’t make the sting of a lost season any easier to take.
The UIL’s cancellation of remaining spring sports and state championships because of necessary precautions due to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, left a plethora of ‘only-ifs’ in the Katy ISD sports community.
Only if Katy softball had been granted a postseason in which to defend its 2019 Class 6A state championship. The Tigers will get another chance next year, yes, but the seniors won’t have a shot at pursuing back-to-back titles. Only if Tompkins senior golfer Elina Sinz had been awarded one more shot at playing for state and an individual championship. Only if the Katy High girls track team or Paetow senior jumper Johnathan Baker or Taylor junior thrower Bryce Foster or Tompkins’ boys and girls track and field teams were given a chance to strut their stuff at state in Austin, smashing records along the way.
The Tompkins, Seven Lakes and Cinco Ranch boys soccer teams were all state-ranked and all viable candidates to represent the district at state.
So on and so on. The ‘what-ifs’ from this high school spring sports season would make for a compelling ESPN “30 for 30” documentary.
But arguably the biggest storyline left unanswered will be that of Tompkins girls soccer.
A little more than a week ago, Devon Carrillo realized she could play a significant role helping others during this crucial time of need.
With healthcare face masks at a premium due to precautions for the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, the Taylor High sophomore varsity volleyball player knew she could make a difference.
“I really thought, ‘Oh, well I can make masks and I have materials at home I can use,’” Carrillo, 16, said. “It started from there. A lot of people ended up seeing them and posting about it, so then I ended up just making them for basically anyone who wanted one.”