After having best laid plans delayed multiple times over the last few months, the Long Beach State men’s and women’s basketball teams have been cleared to return to outdoor activities by the Long Beach Department of Health & Human Services.
LBSU student-athletes and staff have been sequestering on or near campus for almost a month while taking COVID-19 tests. They tested negative and were on track for an Oct. 1 return, but positive tests on campus forced the rescheduling. Athletics director Andy Fee said Monday that both teams should be working out together again by midweek.
“It’s kind of the first step and people here are excited,” Fee said. “We’ve all been in a kind of malaise of COVID. We’re all looking for some comfort and normalcy and sports can be that… It will be a transition for everybody, but we’ll be ready for the season.”
LBSU men’s basketball coach Dan Monson said his players are staying safe and cautiously optimistic when it comes to preparing for a season that doesn’t have a finalized schedule yet.
“I think they’re excited but we were right about at this point two weeks ago,” Monson said. “They just want to get out there and get going but there is so much that’s out of their control.”
The first week of activity on campus will be limited to outdoor strength and conditioning training. Any basketball activity on portable outdoor hoops will come next week.
“We’re going to start really slow because so many of them are probably in the worst shape of their basketball lives,” Monson said. “It will be safety first with both the pandemic and their fitness.”
Both teams will be split into groups of 10 or less while training together, but Monson said he wants to find creative ways to help his team bond after such a long time apart.
“It’s so limited in what you can do,” he said. “This first week is team building too even if that’s just doing some jumping jacks together to get going. It’s not really basketball, it’s just trying to get them all together.”
The biggest difference between this restart and the ones in the past few months is that Fee said, “Positive cases don’t necessarily means you shut everything down.”
“Just because somebody tests positive doesn’t mean you quarantine a whole team,” he added. “You may, it just depends on contact tracing. During the year you could see athletes quarantined. You might see a team quarantined. That just depends on what the public health folks say.”
LBSU hopes to announce its non-conference schedules in approximately a week. Fee said the men’s team is working out the details to open the season at UCLA in the first week of December.
The Big West Conference schedules could be done by the end of the month, and it may end up being a 20-game slate with a few twists.
“The discussion right now is around, ‘Do we look at some unique scheduling opportunities to get the most games in?’,” Fee said. “The goal is to try to get as many games as possible. But how do you do that in a COVID world?”
One option may be to play back-to-back games against conference opponents in order to limit travel and possible transmission of the virus. Testing of both student-athletes and staff will continue throughout the preseason and regular season.