It wasn’t the first time the Temple Owls had to shut down, but the feeling was different with a basketball game almost 48 hours away. A positive COVID-19 test within Temple’s Tier 1 group led to another 14-day quarantine.
When people read “Temple pauses men’s basketball activities,” they’re probably thinking all communication is virtual over the 14-day period. They’re probably thinking if a player doesn’t work out on his own, he won’t be conditioned enough for the return.
But neither assumption is accurate. According to coach Aaron McKie, the Philadelphia guidelines allow up to three players in the gym at once. McKie and his assistants cannot make any physical contact with players, but the communication is still there. The Owls are still having organized workouts.
Players arrive each day at normal practice hours in groups of three, two groups at a time. One group works on strength and conditioning for around 45 minutes while the other three groups are inside the gym. Two of the players are working off the shooting machines while one is in the middle of the court doing ballhandling drills.
“It’s difficult because I’ve got a lot of new faces and they need team practices,” McKie said. “The stuff that we’re doing is stuff that you’d typically do in the summertime.”
One of the biggest downsides is that Temple can’t work on plays. Every player is doing one-on-none activities. The time in the gym will mainly keep guys sharp, but the working-on-plays aspect is strictly mental.
“You need to at least be having some 5-on-0, where you’re working on some offense, defense and special-teams stuff,” McKie said.
On the other hand, the benefit is being able to work. The conditioning decreases players’ chances of suffering soft tissue injuries when they return.
Temple saw its original opener against NJIT postponed, and then the team shut down right before participating in the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Uncasville, Conn. It can be a lot for college players to handle mentally, which is why McKie and his staff are checking on the players during the 14-day quarantine period.
Temple’s next scheduled game is still more than two weeks away, Dec. 22 against Houston.
“This is unusual for a lot of us, and we have to keep in mind that they’re still kids,” McKie said. “They’re looking for answers, and I don’t have any answers for them.”