Men’s and women’s basketball are now looking toward busy seasons with plans to make up games postponed by COVID-19 measures.
Director of Athletics Tim Hall said the basketball teams will have to play more games during some weeks in order to make up for the ones they have missed.
“We look at open dates within the remainder of the schedule and we add games in,” Hall said. “So, some weeks where we were going to have two games, we’re going to have three; some where we had three, we might have four so that we can attempt to get these games in before the end of the season.”
Men’s Basketball Head Coach Brian Barone said due to these added games, his team will be going through a trial that few other teams experience.
“It’s unprecedented, and I’d be willing to say there’s probably no other team, or very few teams in the country that are going through what we’re about to embark on,” Barone said. “Ultimately, we’re just going to have to go in there and focus on, as cliche as it sounds, one game at a time, and not get overwhelmed with what’s ahead of us. There’s going to be times we’re playing four games in one week and then turn around doing the same thing, and that’s bookended by three games a week before and after.”
Hall said these games were postponed because they didn't have enough available players.
“Specifically for basketball, one of our rules is that you have to have at least eight individuals in order to conduct a game,” Hall said. “So, because of positive tests and also contact tracing due to close contacts, it’s reduced us to below that number of eight.”
He said they base these rules on the NCAA’s recommendations in terms of what policies and procedures should look like for the athletics department.
“The NCAA has a team of medical professionals headed by a gentlemen named Brian Hainline who is the director of medical services for the NCAA, and he has a really strong team of national experts that make recommendations, and then each individual conference will adopt those recommendations and then [make] tweaks to them or additions based on their own individual circumstances,” Hall said.
Women's Basketball Head Coach Paula Buscher said while these postponements are hard on her team, she doesn’t believe this year is harder for student-athletes than anyone else.
“I think this year’s been hard on everyone mentally, and not just student-athletes, but students in general, people in general,” Buscher said. “I don’t think we’re any different from what everyone else is going through. Yes, we gear ourselves up and then sometimes it’s like, ‘Woah, not today,’ so you can call it frustrating if you want, but I think you have to be able to just roll with it and take care of what you can take care of … We’re in a pandemic, it’s just part of it.”
Barone said his team has been mostly affected by the lack of time to play on the court.
“I think the impact it has on them is it’s just the first time in a long time in their lives there’s been a significant break from basketball this year,” Barone said. “Starting from the off-season where the summer was kind of shortened, the ability to get on the field as a team has been very limited and obviously as of late, we’ve been very limited as well.”
Despite the postponements, Buscher said she believes SIUE and the athletics department have done an excellent job of protecting their students and student-athletes from COVID-19.
“We’ve taken it very seriously,” Buscher said. “Not only our women’s basketball program, but our athletics [department] and our university. We do testing, and currently we’re doing testing three times a week … We’re working really hard at wearing masks and social distancing … within reason, whenever you can when you play basketball.”
Hall said they often have talks with their athletes about how to protect themselves and those around them.
“We talk to our young people all the time about really making good decisions and staying within your family unit and in your bubble,” Hall said. “I think it’s been pretty clear, just generally in society, it’s so hard to pinpoint where you can pick it up from … So, what we really say is look, it’s the three W’s: ‘Wash your hands, watch your distance, and wear your mask. When you’re with people outside of your bubble, try to have a strong sense of where they’ve been, because a lot of time you don’t know.’”
Men’s basketball will resume playing starting Jan. 21, and both men’s and women’s basketball are working to reschedule postponements. For more information, go to the SIUE Athletics website.