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Gonzaga basketball teams welcome first practice with season opener six weeks away

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 13, 2020

College basketball takes another step forward Wednesday, with men’s and women’s teams holding their first preseason practices.

The NCAA Council announced last month that teams will be allowed a maximum of 30 practices over the next 42 days to prepare for season openers beginning as early as Nov. 25.

Gonzaga’s teams have been building up to Wednesday with transitional 12-hour workweeks since Sept. 21, including eight hours of skill instruction, as mandated by the NCAA.

“You can’t just go from zero to 60, you can’t go from walk-through and individual stuff and step right into practice, because the chances of injury go up significantly,” GU Athletic Director Mike Roth said. “The process has allowed us to ease into it.”

Gonzaga continues to follow COVID-19 protocols developed through ongoing discussions with the Spokane Regional Health District, but Roth said he wasn’t aware of any on-court limitations.

“I think we’re pretty much full bore,” Roth said.

Men’s and women’s basketball players have been administered coronavirus tests three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) for roughly the past month, Roth said. The NCAA has recommended testing three times a week during the season.

“We don’t just test men’s and women’s basketball. We’re doing surveillance testing for the rest of our student-athletes, since none have pending competition,” Roth said. “Not unlike every other university, we’ve had a couple of positives, but the numbers are very low.

“When we do have a positive, it’s reported to Spokane Regional Health and they take over at that point in time, as well as work with our university health center and our staff. It’s treated no different than any other student.”

Roth has been impressed by student-athletes and the campus community adhering to COVID-19 safety measures.

“When I walk down the hall or around campus, everybody I see is wearing masks,” he said. “The university has done a tremendous job of getting everybody to buy in, so we’re part of the solution and not part of the problem.”

Roth keeps a close eye on the number of COVID-19 cases in Spokane and other West Coast Conference campuses and cities, and the impact the virus has had on college football and NFL schedules. Spokane has been in Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan since late May.

“The real question will be if and when we get to Phase 3 – and based on the numbers, it doesn’t look like any time soon – will we be able to have any level of fans (in attendance)? Even then, there’s no guarantees,” Roth said. “What I’m reading and hearing, the numbers are increasing all over the nation. If that continues to happen, I don’t see fans in November or December.

“Our players are lobbying every day. I think they’re very confident because they’re doing their part to play, but what they really want is to play with our fans watching.”

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