Bahamian professional basketball players are scattered all over the world in various professional leagues, and one of the players in the center of a major coronavirus outbreak is former collegiate standout Dwight Coleby.
The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced leagues all over the world to shut down, following the lead of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the United States in early March. Coleby, who suits up for Dinamo Sassari in the Basketball Champions League in Sassari, Italy, said he’s just taking it day-by-day, working out privately on a regular basis and hoping for the best.
Groceries are usually delivered to the doorstep of his apartment by a team employee. The 26-year-old, 6’ 9”, 240-pound forward, whose most notable collegiate appearance was with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers during the 2017-2018 season, said he tries to follow strict guidelines to limit his exposure as much as possible to the deadly coronavirus. The virus has affected over 115,000 people in Italy and almost 14,000 of them have died.
“We (he and delivery person) talk at a distance. We don’t get close to each other,” said Coleby to the Kansas City Star – a daily newspaper in Kansas City, Missouri. Italy has imposed a national lockdown, trying to gain some control on the rapid spread of the virus. “I am holding up well, watching how I’m eating and working out twice a day. Everyone is taking it seriously over here and staying indoors. I don’t see any cars from the distance. You see people staying inside, sometimes on the balconies.”
Italy is the second-most impacted nation in the world, surpassing China where the novel coronavirus originated, and trailing just the United States, which has more than twice as many cases as any other nation. The Bahamian power forward said he is saddened by the numbers. He stays in communication with family members here in The Bahamas and his fiancée via WhatsApp and FaceTime.
Italy has extended its national lockdown until Easter, but there is some hope as the country is reporting a declining infection rate.
“I get up, go work out, do some running in the parking lot, come back and try to eat some food, cook food,” said Coleby to the Kansas City Star. “I try to watch basketball, watch movies, try to cook more food later on, get another workout in. I watch something, read something, try to do something,” he added.
After his contract was terminated by Istanbul Technical University (ITU) Basketball Club in Istanbul, Turkey, earlier this season, Coleby signed with Dinamo Sassari, and while his numbers have dropped offensively, he remains a potent force defensively. Coleby averaged 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds in 15 games for ITU. In five games with Dinamo Sassari, his numbers are at 4.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. He’s also played professionally in Belgium and Japan.
Collegiately, he started out with the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) Rebels, averaging just 2.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game during his freshman season. His numbers increased to 5.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in his sophomore year at Ole Miss, but he sat out the following year with a knee injury after transferring to Lawrence, Kansas, to play for the highly ranked Kansas Jayhawks. Coleby suited up for the Jayhawks for the 2016-2017 season, and in just 5.6 minutes per contest, he dropped in 1.7 points per game and added 1.8 rebounds per game, but helped lead the Jayhawks to the Elite Eight in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament that year. In a second round upset win over Michigan State, Coleby admirably stepped in for Landen Lucas, who was in foul trouble, and was mobbed by teammates afterward.
As a fifth-year senior for the Hilltoppers, Coleby’s numbers skyrocketed to 11.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
At this point, there is no telling when play will resume in Italy or other European countries.
In addition to play in various professional leagues being suspended, FIBA, the sport’s governing body worldwide, announced the suspension of all FIBA competitions. The suspension could later include other international competitions on its extensive calendar. Coleby has elected to stay in Italy for the time being, hoping for slowdown in the spread of the deadly virus. He remains optimistic that the season will continue at some point.
Since that time when he made his decision to stay abroad, the government of The Bahamas has canceled all flights into the country, meaning Coleby would not be able to come home at this time even if he wanted to.