MORGANTOWN — As if, a day before West Virginia ordered masks be worn indoors where social distancing can’t be practiced, including in restaurants and bars, we needed a reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much a part of our lives, West Virginia’s basketball team was forced to postpone its volunteer basketball workouts because five members of the program tested positive for the disease.
Is it the end of basketball as we know it?
Does it cause a major problem to the upcoming season?
Again, certainly not.
If there is a season, that is.
Bob Huggins, in a conversation after learning of the positive tests on his team, admits it’s serious but he hardly is panicking.
“I just don’t know,” Huggins said. “What was it, they had 38 positives at Clemson?”
The last thing I could find was that there were 28 players, as of June 20, who had returned positive tests.
Certainly, 28 is a large number. But when you consider a football program has about 130 players and a basketball team has 13, five testing positive proportionately is like 50 on a football team.
So, it’s time to bear down on prevention.
Not that WVU or Huggins could have done much themselves to avoid this. They had given their players directions and instructions, but they were separated from their players and what they did was out of their control.
“They were told to go run on their own, to work out on their own,” Huggins said.
But basketball is a team sport. To get the ball someone has to pass it to you. If you are shooting around it is far better to have someone rebounding for you.
And three or four months is an eternity when you are 18 or 19 and have lived the active life of an athlete, thriving on competition, going through practice, then coming back in the gym at night to get more shots up.
Let’s face it, you are indestructible in your own mind at that age and are willing to take chances to satisfy your needs and the need of a basketball player is to play basketball.
“You can’t take basketball away from a basketball player,” Huggins, himself a basketball fanatic as a young boy and young man. “I try to explain that to people. They are going to do it.
“OK, Sean McNeil goes home to Kentucky. You think he’s not going to go get shots somewhere. You think Jordan McCabe is going to stop dribbling the ball and getting shots?”
Hardly. It would probably take surgery to remove a basketball from McCabe’s hands.
How did they get the coronavirus? No one really knows, which is our problem in American society right now.
No one knows enough about this disease, what causes it, how to stop it, how to treat it to speak with real authority.
We’re learning. Wearing masks seems to help stop the spread. The treatment is becoming more efficient, thus the mortality rate is going down.
But there’s so much more and the experts can’t predict much of anything as far as when there might be a vaccine, might be a cure, so we have to approach with caution.
We know no one is immune, so patience and discipline is right now the necessary approach, especially knowing our healthiest people, the young, college athletes who spend so much time on being in shape and practicing good nutrition, are as susceptible as anyone else.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel