Oklahoma began offseason basketball workouts this week with a much different look.
There’s plenty of focus on shooting drills. Masks are worn by all players and coaches. There’s an emphasis on social distancing.
No one knows how the college basketball season will be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. But preparations need to be made.
“During the last four months, we’ve talked to the players and told them the most significant thing is our attitude about what lies ahead,” OU coach Lon Kruger said during a Zoom meeting with reporters Friday. “(It’s about) the attitude of being flexible, understanding that it’s not going to be normal.”
Everyone on the roster went through COVID-19 testing last week. There were no positive results and the team began splitting its NCAA-allowed eight hours of instruction with half the time on the court and half focused on conditioning and weight training, Kruger said.
Kruger is depending on his players to maintain good judgment when away from the court.
“We are staying safe, first and foremost, in every way,” Kruger said. “Our guys get that. They understand that it’s not convenient to wear a mask when you are running around on a basketball court, but they understand it’s important.
“It’s important when they leave practice and they aren’t around our group that they still make good decisions on the evening and on the weekends. So far they have done that.”
There’s still a possibility that no basketball will be played at all because of COVID-19. What would that mean for college athletics?
“It would be hugely different, for sure,” Kruger said. “But again, as much as we want it to be normal and as much as we want our guys to have the opportunity to compete and the fans to have the opportunity to attend and to have it be like college athletics are pretty good, it’s become a significant part of a lot of people’s lives, but safety’s first and we understand that. We will adjust as we need to. We hope it turns out to be as close to normal as possible. But we get it. We will adjust.”
As the NBA prepares to resume its season, Kruger said there’s something that can be learned from that.
“Our conference offices are talking to the NBA folks a lot about gaining from their experiences of what they did, what they liked, what they would have changed,” Kruger said. “Absolutely, that will be some shared information and kind of knowledge folks will take advantage of.”
Like football, there have been no alterations to the basketball schedule. But, again, Kruger said there must be flexibility.
“Each program tries to anticipate one of four or five different scenarios,” Kruger said. “Are we playing nonconference? Are we not playing nonconference? If we’re not playing what we have scheduled in the nonconference, are we changing our schedule and do it (in) smaller pods? Everything’s being discussed.”
From a basketball standpoint, Kruger is leaning on his four seniors — Kur Kuath, Brady Manek, Austin Reaves and Alondes Williams — to provide direction. OU will petition for immediate eligibility waivers for transfers Umoja Gibson (North Texas) and Elijah Harkless (Cal State Northridge). Newcomer Trey Phipps — a Booker T. Washington graduate and the lone true freshman — is getting acclimated to college basketball.