WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – High school sports in New York have been allowed to return to action, even those deemed high risk, like basketball.

(credit: CBS2)

It’s a move applauded by players and parents alike.

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As CBS2’s Steve Overmyer reports, there’s an electricity in the gym at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains as it prepares for its first game in nearly a year.

“We haven’t played basketball in about a year. It’s all, like, bottled up in of us, and we’re unleashing it now,” said Stepinac HS senior Malcolm Chimezie.

Safety protocols must be met. Players must wear masks, even during the game. But at least they’re playing.

(credit: CBS2)

“Parents have just been so excited that the school has put all these guidelines in place. That it’s safely done for the guys to play the game they love,” said head coach Patrick Massaroni.

“We know how special it is to be playing basketball in the middle of a pandemic. We’re super fortunate to be here and we’re just trying to have fun every day,” said junior Samuel Gibbs.

According to a University of Wisconsin study, this year 65% of high school athletes have suffered from depression or anxiety. The return of high school sports isn’t about entertainment, it’s about mental health.

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“I don’t think anybody realizes what 14-18-year-olds have gone through… no one understands the lack of social interaction and what it’s done to them,” Massaroni said. “It doesn’t even have to be the best brand of basketball. It’s just the fact that they’re able to do something together.”

(credit: CBS2)

Parents aren’t allowed at practice, and they won’t even be able to attend the game. But that’s not the point.

“I understand, like, sometimes basketball isn’t always the first priority. Sometimes you have to take care of other things and make sure that everything’s running smoothly with the whole COVID thing.  But now that we’re back, we’re just getting along together. It just makes us all happy,” Chimezie said.

In a year that’s given our kids a new perspective on the world around us.

“It also shows that life is much more than just the sport. Whether it’s academics, focusing on something else you love because the ball is going to stop bouncing at some point,” Gibbs said.

(credit: CBS2)

But not yet. Not while the game still brings joy.

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Stepinac’s first game is Friday night against their arch rival Iona Prep. You can watch it online by CLICKING HERE.

Steve Overmyer