ALBANY — They wasted no time.
As soon as the UAlbany basketball teams, which had been paused for multiple weeks, found out they were allowed to restart practicing, both quickly made plans to hit the floor Wednesday night at SEFCU Arena to resume getting ready for their 2020-21 seasons.
“Our players were on call and our athletic trainer was on call,” UAlbany women’s basketball head coach Colleen Mullen said minutes before her team’s 7 p.m. practice started. “I know they were all anxious to get started.”
“Our guys have been a really resilient group,” said UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown, whose team practiced after Mullen’s squad. “They’ve been very patient. I think any time I sensed any frustration, I just reiterated to them that we had people working really hard to get us back on the court, and our focus needed to be on controlling what we can control.”
The UAlbany men last practiced Nov. 2, while the UAlbany women last practiced Nov. 9. The university shifted Nov. 10 to full remote learning for the rest of the fall semester following a “significant spike” in COVID-19 cases, and all of the school’s in-person athletic activities were temporarily suspended as part of that move. At that time, the UAlbany men’s basketball program had already suspended its in-person activities because “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.”
UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson said Wednesday that members of both basketball teams had received three coronavirus tests each week during the programs’ pause, and the school’s athletic department received the “green light” early Wednesday evening for them to practice.
“We worked with our campus officials, SUNY officials and Albany County health officials,” Benson said, “and we’re here, ready to practice.”
Division I basketball teams were allowed to start playing games Wednesday, but none of the Capital Region’s squads were even able to practice until the Great Danes gained clearance. Both Siena basketball teams are currently paused, with the men’s team expecting to start practicing on Friday and the women’s team likely able to resume practicing early next week.
During UAlbany’s latest pause of in-person activities, which was the third overall for the school’s athletic department this semester because of pandemic-related issues, both basketball teams called off the first three games on their schedules.
For the UAlbany women, the first game on its current schedule is a Dec. 9 matchup at Hofstra.
“As of right now, we have the game at Hofstra and that’s what we’re focused on,” Mullen said. “We need to see where we are with bumps and bruises.”
For the UAlbany men, a Dec. 19 conference game against UMBC is the Great Danes’ current opener.
“Am I considering trying to find a game between December 12 and 14? Potentially,” said Brown, whose team had only conducted five full-contact workouts before its most-recent pause.
Brown and Mullen both said they’d need to take it slow with their teams as they jumped back into practicing. Mullen described her team as “thrilled” to get back on the court, and Brown said he knew his team’s “energy and enthusiasm” would be at a high level.
“But we need to be smart with what we do, especially this first week back,” Brown said.