LAWRENCE, Kan. — So far, the COVID-19 pandemic has not negatively affected Bill Self's Kansas basketball team since the Aug. 24 start of the 2020-21 school year.
"I don't think I'm really supposed to talk about any specifics at all," Self, KU's 18th-year coach, said Thursday when asked in a season-opening media Zoom call if the 2020-21 Jayhawks have had any positive tests heading into a campaign that could be affected by the ongoing pandemic.
"I will say this," he quickly added, "we have tested every week since the guys have been on campus and we have been extremely pleased through what has transpired through the testing."
The insinuation there was that the number of cases, if there have been any, has been low. In fact, he told The Star earlier this week everybody on the team would be available for the season's first practice Thursday, except freshman guard Latrell Jossell, who has an ankle injury.
"We have only been doing it once a week," Self said of testing. "That will be amped up to three times a week or whatever is right for college basketball to do. I don't know if it's three times or daily. That has not taken place yet. I think it will within two to three weeks."
There has been talk that college basketball could ultimately go to daily testing during the 2020-21 season, but that hasn't been decreed by the NCAA yet. Currently the NCAA's plan is to have a team quarantine for a whopping 14 days at the time anybody tests positive.
"We told our guys we need to be very smart come August and September. Now that we are in October going into November, we need to be as bright as we've ever been, all of us," Self said.
That's because ... "It's not losing a key player. It's losing four to five key players," Self said. "If your entire team has to quarantine for 14 days and you come back and are expected to play games the first week you come back, you will have absolutely no chance to be successful for the most part as far as from a technical standpoint or a playing standpoint because you'll be out of shape.
"You will have no rhythm. There's a lot of things that go into it. One or two mishaps could set a team back a month. In that month," Self continued, "your regular-season chance to win a league could be basically be taken away. We all need to be smart."
Self said the players have bought in trying to be cautious in their daily lives to avoid contracting the virus.
"The school has done a good job," Self said. "We can't have visitors in dormitories. In our situation we have a secured area as much as anything. We are not eating in groups. We only spend time with each other.
"We wear masks in the dormitory (McCarthy Hall) outside of our own room. Even if you go to the kitchen or sit in the main area you have a mask on. It's kind of strange to go in the locker room. You've got to be out of there in 15 minutes and wear a mask in the locker room except when in the shower.
"Our guys have taken it seriously because they would rather play than enjoy the benefits of what a college student is — that's having the freedom to come and go as you please. We've been pretty fortunate in that."
Self acknowledged that he does worry about his players' college experience amid the pandemic.
"You want your kids to have fun, wake up and go to class, be social. The way it's kind of set up now, they do their school online for the most part and they play their ball. That's it. We hope it's fun," Self said. "I worry about college students obviously getting a little anxious to enjoy what college is all about. Certainly we are not giving them a chance to experience that nor is anybody else on any campus."
As far as the fun of completing the regular season, which for KU will begin Nov. 25 in Orlando, reportedly against Boise State at Disney Wide World of Sports Complex, Self said:
"I have some concerns. I know we'll have a season. I think there will be some major challenges in all sports including men's basketball and women's basketball that we haven't seen yet. If I understand correctly there's a chance the virus could be on an uptick as the weather gets colder."
It has not yet been announced how many fans will be allowed to watch games in person in Allen Fieldhouse this season. Self said KU's games in Orlando, Florida (two in Wooden Legacy; one vs. Kentucky in Champions Classic and one other game) will be played before absolutely no fans. KU's upcoming Late Night in the Phog, to be held as a virtual event at a date yet to be announced, will be held before no spectators.
"I would think if you were an opponent you would see this as an opportunity to play against Kansas and maybe not play against the sixth man as much which obviously has played a role in us winning a lot of games," Self said.
"Same way when we go somewhere else, too. We usually get most people's best shots in arenas we play in. I think this is one year we need to not worry about that. We need to worry about just playing, about being a team, about looking forward to each situation regardless how different it is or unnatural that it feels because it's going to be a year full of that.
"The teams that respond to that the best and don't say, 'Oh I wish,' all the time I think will be the teams that have the most success."
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