Last week the NCAA announced that the Division I Council approved Nov. 25 as the start date for men’s and women’s college basketball. Full practices can begin on Oct. 14. Schedules are being worked out and players are ready to get in action.
At Fordham University in the Bronx, women’s basketball coach Stephanie Gaitley said players returned to campus toward the end of August and started workouts. Only one international student-athlete opted to sit out this season. Unfortunately, after a couple of weeks, the facilities were shut down for a mandated inspection. Gaitley is a bit concerned about readiness as other schools in the Atlantic 10 Conference have been training.
Twenty-eight percent of Fordham undergraduate classes are in person and the remainder are online. “You feel for these college kids because they’re used to the social aspect,” said Gaitley. “The restrictions are very difficult, but understandably so because if we want to play, we have to follow restrictions. Health and welfare is the most important thing.”
Gaitley said the uncertainty raised anxiety, but once the season became real, they focused. She and the assistant coaches maintain a positive attitude. “There’s going to be nothing sweeter than raising a trophy in spite of all the adversity. Let’s get after it,” said Gaitley, who was pleased that players returned to campus in pretty good shape.
At Seton Hall University in New Jersey, women’s basketball coach Tony Bozzella said his players returned to campus in good to great shape. Among those in top shape is senior guard Desiree Elmore. They were all cleared to play by Aug. 17. This week, the players began an eight-hour basketball and four-hour conditioning week, said Bozzella. On Oct. 14, they will increase to 20 hours a week.
“We are in a hybrid situation [some classes online and some in person]; Seton Hall has done a wonderful job,” said Bozzella. “They do their online courses anywhere from our study center to their dorm room to our basketball lounge. We set up where they’re more than six feet apart.”
In addition to individual on-court workouts, there has been team play. “We’ve done some scrimmaging; we’ve done some offense and defense. They’ve done really well,” said Bozzella.
For their non-conference schedule, the Pirates will strictly play schools in the tri-state area. As of now, New Jersey is not allowing spectators at games, so they’ll be playing home games with only coaches, staff and essential personnel present. The Big East Conference is meeting this week to work out the conference schedule.
Both players and coaching staff at Seton Hall are being tested for COVID-19 one or two times a week. With regular practice underway, Bozzella anticipates that will be increased. The semester will end before Thanksgiving. The NCAA selected a start day when at least three-quarters of D I schools will have concluded their fall terms or moved instruction and exams online by then, thus providing players a less populated campus environment.