Gavin Baxter did everything humanly possible to be able to get back out on the court this season.
The sophomore forward tore his labrum in late September during a preseason practice and was faced with the decision of either sitting out the entire season while his shoulder healed and doing physical therapy or having surgery for the chance at being able to catch the end of the season.
Baxter chose the latter and was given a four- to six-month recovery time. He checked into his first game (against San Francisco, Feb. 8) not even a full five months after surgery.
Although doctors warned him that his season was seemingly done, Baxter didn’t want it to end that way. He wanted to be part of this BYU squad. He wanted to help the team any way possible, even if it was with only a couple rebounds, an assist or a block.
But Baxter was only able to record minutes in seven games over a month before the Cougars' season came to an end earlier than planned.
BYU was poised to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015 and was expected to make a deep run, but March Madness was canceled due to the coronavirus and fans were merely left with what-ifs.
So, does Baxter regret not using his redshirt season instead of coming back for what ended up being a canceled postseason?
“I thought about it,” Baxter said. “I don't think I do. I feel like, even in that short amount of time that I got to play, we had some special moments. So, I don't regret it at all.”
But there's no denying that the news of the NCAA Tournament being canceled hit Baxter even harder because of everything he went through this season, but he keeps it in perspective.
“Working as hard as I did to get back and play with the team, I feel worse for all the senior guys on the team,” Baxter said. “That was their last shot and to get a run in the tourney is something that you dream of. As a college basketball player is just getting to the tourney and making a run. So, I felt worse for our senior guys on the team.”
But as the country adjusts to a sportsless world, schools move to online teaching and more and more people stay home to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Baxter has turned to humor to get him through the current situation.
The Provo native is staying at his parents’ with his younger sister, but his older siblings make the occasional appearance. For the most part, when not working on schoolwork or fitting in a workout, Baxter said he and his family spend most of their time sending memes back and forth between one another.
Then there's also a new hobby Baxter and some friends are trying to get into: paintball. But they are having trouble building up their arsenal and getting paintball guns, so that may be left on the back burner for now.
And then there's Baxter's Twitter, where the sophomore shares some of his funniest thoughts.
“Humor for me is a way to cope with things and especially this,” Baxter said. “You've kind of just gotta laugh at it sometimes.”
Baxter also finds some hope in the situation – that next year’s team will be even hungrier because they were denied the tournament. And he hopes to grow and learn from the situation millions of Americans are finding themselves in right now.
Personally, Baxter would like to learn how to be more patient in situations like this one.
“I think this is more extreme,” Baxter said. “So, when you get smaller road bumps during the season it will allow you to say 'I've been through similar hardships before, so it's just a matter of adapting.'”
But also, he wants things to settle down.
“I just hope this thing gets over quick and the sports world can be resurrected again and get back to normal,” Baxter said.