The NCAA basketball season continues, despite the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 across the nation. While games are being played, the teams had much less time to prepare.
In comparison to other teams, the St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, men’s basketball team took even more time to get fully going, and that’s directly related to the virus.
After a player tested positive in late October, the entire program was forced into a 14-day quarantine. The student-athlete had limited symptoms, yet head coach Glenn Braica all of a sudden started feeling very tired.
“I felt exhausted one night, and I wasn’t really doing anything because of the quarantine,” said Braica, the 17th men’s head coach in Terriers program history, who took over in 2010. “I just felt run down.”
Once he started getting pains in his legs and back, Braica knew it was time for a COVID-19 test. He drove up to the window at a CVS to administer a self-test, and several days later, he found out he was positive.
Just as the Terriers were wrapping up their quarantine, they’d be without their head coach. For Braica, COVID-19 was nothing like he had ever experienced in terms of illness.
“I had pains in my back and muscles that I’ve never had before,” the graduate of Bishop Ford H.S., Park Slope, said. “I was extremely tired, but I didn’t want to lie down because it hurt to lie down.
“I’ve maybe been sick like that for a day or two, but I’ve never been sick like that for two or three weeks.”
It took a good three weeks for Braica to feel healthy enough to return to practice. He said even after his recovery that he still has a cough in the morning and feels more tired than usual at night.
Throughout his illness, Braica was more concerned with his players. Of course he did not want any of them to get sick, but he also knew the being cooped up in their rooms all day had to be a challenge.
“I tried to check in with them every day,” he said. “I really just wanted to make sure they were OK having to deal with a quarantine and not being able to play for a while.”
When the team finally was able to resume basketball activities, Braica and his staff took things slowly. Doing too much too soon would risk injury, so balancing drills with rest time allowed the players to ease back into their rhythm.
In a normal year, the Terriers typically have about 30 practices and two scrimmages before playing their first game. This year, however, that number dropped to just 19 practices without any scrimmages. Still, Braica and the team are thankful that they’re even able to have a season.
“I’m happy that we’re back playing, and I’m hoping that everyone — especially the kids — can stay away from this virus,” he said. “Since that first shutdown, we’ve been lucky. I think there’s a lot of luck involved. I don’t think you can fully prevent it (COVID-19). I know there are safety protocols, but it’s out there.”
The NCAA announced recently that the entirety of the “March Madness” Tournament will take place in Indianapolis this spring. Last year’s tournament was canceled before it ever began. Keep in mind that St. Francis remains one of four men’s Division I hoops teams to have never played in the Big Dance.
While he hopes his team’s tournament fate someday changes, right now Braica’s main hope is that nothing like this pandemic happens again.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.