As Maryland gears up for a new men’s basketball season shrouded by the novel coronavirus pandemic — just like the last season finished — the team has already experienced the disruption the virus can cause.
Players headed home in August, coach Mark Turgeon said Tuesday at the Terrapins’ media day. When they returned, one had the coronavirus. His teammate drove him to get a test. He lived with other teammates, too.
So in late August and into early September, Maryland’s practices were altered as “a few members” of the team were infected. Since then, all the players are back to full health — with tests including MRIs of the heart — but the situation exemplified to Turgeon how many other layers there are to this basketball season on top of just playing games.
“We lecture them every day about making the right decisions, control your bubble,” Turgeon said. “We haven’t done anything drastic as far as moving into hotels, because I think you can get it in a hotel room just as much as you can get it in a dorm room.”
Unlike the NBA, WNBA and other sports leagues that began play during the summer, there won’t be a bubble in place for the season — no centralized location to minimize the risks involved with travel or everyday activities.
But the University of Maryland is shifting completely to online classes after Thanksgiving break, and any students who travel home for the holiday are urged to remain there. So with fewer students on campus, Turgeon feels the imagined bubble around his basketball team will somewhat strengthen.
“It’ll kind of help our bubble a little bit over the next few months,” Turgeon said. “So we’ll see. It’s an everyday thing. I said earlier, [Michigan State coach] Tom Izzo got it, and he has no idea how he got it. We had a coaches’ meeting this morning, and for the life of him he can’t figure out how he got it.
“And then there’s some teams in our league going through it. One guy’s a starting center, he has it. And the backup center doesn’t have it, but they guard each other every day. It’s crazy. It’s a crazy virus. And we’ll just plan, and if something happens, we’ll plan from there and do the best we can.”
The Terrapins’ schedule hasn’t been finalized yet, but they have a matchup as early as Nov. 25 against Old Dominion. Turgeon said he’s comfortable they’re doing everything they can to make a season work. They test six days a week, although “that doesn’t mean we can’t catch it,” he said.
After a few Maryland players caught the coronavirus in late August, practices halted. One player missed 26 or 27 days, the coach said. But the team has been healthy since, and Turgeon hopes they’ll remain that way.
“Will it be a perfect season for everyone? Probably not,” Turgeon said. “But the excitement and just the mental health part of it, having a chance to do it, has been great for everyone.”