Antelope Valley hoops coach fundraises to get teams to tourneys

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The coach of a private California school that recently announced the closure of its campus and canceled all sports is raising money to send the men’s and women’s basketball teams to their postseason tournaments.

Jordan Mast, coach of the men’s basketball team at the University of Antelope Valley, told ESPN on Saturday that the school’s men’s and women’s basketball teams have qualified to play in their conference tournaments but have been told by school officials that their seasons will be canceled without outside help.

They have until Sunday to leave their dorms, the team facilities and the campus. The school has not offered alternate housing for the affected athletes.

Mast said he was aware of the NAIA school’s financial troubles, but school officials notified him only last week about the dire circumstances. He said he asked the leaders of the private, for-profit institution for the opportunity to start a GoFundMe to give his teams a chance to play in the postseason and they agreed.

“All we know is we’re supposed to be out by Sunday,” Mast told ESPN. “On a call, they said, ‘We also don’t have funds to continue your season.’ At that point, I just said, ‘This isn’t right. Can I fundraise? Can I do something?’ And they said, ‘Hey, if you want to try, go ahead.'”

Mast said he has spent the week trying to contact people who can help him raise $40,000, which he said will be sufficient for both teams to travel throughout the postseason.

With an 84-75 win over La Sierra University on Tuesday, the UAV men’s basketball team sealed the Cal Pac Conference championship and automatic bid to the NAIA national tournament but will still participate in its conference tournament. Saturday’s home game against Embry-Riddle (Arizona) is the team’s senior night, Mast said, and possibly the last game they will play.

The UAV women’s basketball team will also clinch the conference championship and trip to the NAIA national tournament with a victory over Embry-Riddle on Saturday. With a loss, the women’s team would still have the opportunity to win its conference tournament and secure a berth.

The school told Mast he has to raise enough money for both programs to travel or it will remove them both from the postseason tournaments amid the financial disarray. The Valley Press newspaper reported that lease payments by the Genius Group, which runs the school based in Lancaster, California, were missed and that led to the current situation. Mast said last week he received just 25% of his normal paycheck as a result of the school’s troubles.

Mast said he has fielded multiple calls from worried parents and other concerned parties around athletes who could have their lives completely disrupted in the next 24 hours. He said it’s not fair that the athletes, who have paid tuition and lodging costs, will be displaced.

Mast said he has remained calm amid the chaos with the help of other coaches. On a recent coaches call, Michigan assistant Saddi Washington said it’s important to focus on today and not the future, a message Mast said he needed to hear to remain “positive” with his group.

“Through all of this going on, the people that are really important are our players and our young men,” Mast said. “We’ve told them everything we can, and I just said, ‘Hey, look guys, I can’t promise anything, but this is kind of a microcosm of life.’ I promised them that I’m going to give them everything I’ve got to make this happen.”

Mast said he’s not sure what will happen Sunday when his players, who live on campus, are required to leave their dorms and the team’s facilities. But he is focused on raising money to extend their seasons and helping the men’s and women’s teams get the opportunity to chase their dreams.

“They took out loans. They paid cash,” Mast said. “You know, these players have paid for their housing. This isn’t a Division I school. Most of them are paying a significant amount of money. And so, to not have their housing or to be told to move without a plan has just been unfortunate.”

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