When it’s all said and done, it will have been a 28-day pause for Canisius men’s basketball when they play their first game since January 2 this Saturday against Quinnipiac.
As they prepare for two games after not playing for so long, it’s as much about mental preparation as physical.
“For people who have gone through preseason conditioning, it’s grueling on most campuses and most college basketball programs at I think every level. It’s grueling and it’s designed to be that way for not only the benefit of achieving a certain level of fitness, but also mentally, there’s a test, there’s a challenge,” head coach Reggie Witherspoon said Tuesday.
He said that the team has only had four or five practices since December 30 and they’re trying to get a day of practice in before Saturday’s game.
As for the mental standpoint, the coaching staff has been having Zoom calls with the team and when players are in quarantine as well as utilizing FaceTime to be able to see faces while talking on the phone.
“You can look into their eyes and see that this is a challenge,” Witherspoon said.
An adjustment is coming for the team in the coming week as the general student body returns to campus next week and players will be attending classes and being around non-team members more, obviously increasing the chances of being exposed to COVID-19.
However, they do not have anything specific in mind yet.
“We’re at a time when there’s a whole lot more questions than there are answers and I think that fits into that bucket of questions. I can’t say what’s going to change down the road, I don’t know of there being any changes right now so I think we’re going to try to just grind it out and make the adjustment as we go along,” Witherspoon said.
Another challenge of this season is when they come back, they are going to have to play a lot of games very quickly as they try to first get to 13 games to be eligible for the conference tournament in Atlantic City, N.J., then potentially get to the full 20-game schedule. When they come back, they will be playing five games in a span of eight days.
“Just the notion of running up and down the court, catching a basketball, shooting a basketball, rebounding a basketball in a five-on-five setting,” Witherspoon said. “Going through these different quarantines, it’s three to four days where they look like they’re my age trying to play five-on-five basketball.”
The consistent schedule changes have been tough too. As of Tuesday, the MAAC has made more than 90 changes to the men’s schedule and only one game across the league remains on its originally scheduled date.
“There’s a lot of talk about preparing for another team, but there’s not a lot of time to prepare for another team,” he said.
However, they are hopeful for the remainder of the season. On the court, they sit at 3-3.
“What I see going on, what I hear about going on, young men are making those sacrifices and that they’re doing it with a tremendous spirit and love for each other and the game.”