ALBANY — At this point in their athletic department’s resocialization plan, UAlbany women’s basketball players aren’t required to wear protective face masks when they are actively participating in practice.
Yet, during Wednesday’s workout at SEFCU Arena, it wasn’t uncommon to see head coach Colleen Mullen’s Great Danes sporting their masks as they worked through a variety of drills.
“Some of them are kind of forgetting and they’re leaving it on when they’re working out,” Mullen said.
“If some of them choose to do that during games,” Mullen said, “that’ll be great.”
For her players, Mullen said masks have become “part of their uniform” as they prepare for the upcoming season.
“They’re so used to it,” Mullen said.
Mullen’s squad was the lone UAlbany basketball team to practice Wednesday at SEFCU Arena. On Wednesday, the UAlbany athletic department announced it had “temporarily suspended all men’s basketball activities” after “an individual associated with the men’s team was part of a pool of tests that came back presumptively positive for COVID-19 during routine pooled surveillance testing.”
It’s unclear when the school’s men’s basketball team will be able to resume practicing, but both Mullen and men’s basketball head coach Will Brown have remarked often on their respective teams needing to cherish each day they get on the court. The men’s team’s pause came two days after both UAlbany teams announced their full schedules for the 2020-21 season, and that campaign starts Nov. 29 for the UAlbany women’s team with a home game against Central Connecticut.
America East Conference play starts in mid-December. League play this season is primarily made up of teams playing on Saturdays and Sundays, with two teams playing each other on back-to-back days at one site.
When the league released its schedule, it didn’t include tip-off times for games. Mullen suggested Wednesday she’d prefer games to start in the early afternoon during the unusual conference season that’s ahead — but, more than anything, she just wants there to be a season.
“I just hope there is games, I guess, at this point,” Mullen said. “I think we just hope that there’s games.”
The schools’ men’s basketball teams no longer play each other, but the UAlbany and Siena women’s basketball programs are set to play this season on Dec. 2 at SEFCU Arena.
Mullen mostly likes that rivalry game because of the excitement and pressure that comes along with it.
In the upcoming season, there is another reason — a health-related one — that sticks out, too.
“It’s also a safe game for us,” Mullen said of the game between two programs from within one county.
Mullen speculated Wednesday the UAlbany and Siena teams could even meet multiple times during the 2020-21 season if both programs lose games off their schedules for pandemic-related reasons.
“That wouldn’t be unheard of, if we need to fill in some gaps, because they’re right here,” Mullen said.