With summer COVID-19 outbreak behind them, BYU Cougars are eager to tip off basketball season

Utah State's Justin Bean, left, and Sam Merrill (5) defend against BYU forward Kolby Lee (40) in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

With the start of the college basketball season less than a week away, multiple programs throughout the nation have already been forced to push back their seasons due to coronavirus outbreaks among teams.
BYU, however, is expected to start on time. At least, coach Mark Pope feels very strongly about it.
The Cougars are taking every precaution to be able to tip off Wednesday against Westminster.
Plus, they’re ready to play someone other than themselves.
The team is getting PCR testing every other day and masking up at all times other than when practicing. The coaching staff is also encouraging players to be an nonsocial as possible.
Luckily for the Cougars, there haven’t been any interruptions to practices due to positive test results since camp started.
“We did have a couple things run through the team during the summer, but since we started training camp, guys have been incredibly cautious,” Pope said. “And thankfully we’ve been really safe.”
Junior Kolby Lee was among those who tested positive for coronavirus back in August. The forward from Idaho didn’t realize he had it until he was given the positive result because it only felt like a minor cold.
Lee quarantined for two weeks, but mostly only dealt with a stuffy nose. He did have a fever and chills, but only for an hour, Lee said.

The junior recognized how fortunate he was through his COVID-19 journey, as it was a very mild case. But seeing how it got to him, and pretty much the rest of the team, changed his perspective on the pandemic.
“At first, I was like ‘ah, it’s kind of a joke,’” Lee said. “You hear different things, and then once it kind of ran through our whole team, we’re like ‘OK, this is the real deal.’ … Now we, obviously, don’t want any setbacks. So we’re all masked up everywhere we go, unless we’re on the court. We’re all super serious about this.”
Unlike a football team, which can have a roster of more than 100 players, having one player on a basketball team exposed or possibly test positive would have much larger repercussions. It would essentially shut down the team for two weeks.
With a shortened, condensed season, it would cost the Cougars more games than usual.
“Any time someone gets sick, it gives risk to someone else on the team getting sick,” Lee said. “... it just hurts rotations, it hurts different things.”
With case numbers on the rise throughout the country, the NCAA has decided to play the men’s basketball tournament in one single location, with Indianapolis as the proposed location.
After the way the Cougars’ postseason run was cut short last season due to the pandemic, they will be looking to find themselves in Indiana in a few months.
“I’m just grateful that people are trying every way possible to make the NCAA Tournament a safe reality,” Pope said. “If it ends up being a bubble in Indianapolis, like it’s being discussed, great. If it ends up that the best way to make it most likely to happen is some other alternative, great. I think right now we’re so eager just to have a chance to play that we’re less concerned with the logistics of it.”
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