Villanova’s men’s basketball program announced yet another pause in team activities Monday after two players tested positive for COVID-19. The Wildcats’ next three games were postponed by the Big East Conference.
The disclosure comes one day after the Wildcats resumed practice following their most recent pause, which resulted from a positive test involving coach Jay Wright and another Tier 1 staff member of the program that was disclosed on Dec. 27.
The postponed games are Tuesday at DePaul, Friday versus Marquette at Finneran Pavilion and Jan. 13 at Xavier, a game that already had been rescheduled from a Jan. 2 postponement. That brought the total of postponed or canceled games this season for Villanova to nine.
The Wildcats (8-1, 3-0 Big East), who rose to No. 3 in the Associated Press poll Monday, have not played since Dec. 23 when they won at Marquette.
Wright said he learned of the positive tests just as his team was preparing for Monday’s practice before its flight to Chicago for the DePaul game. He said the results followed nine consecutive days of negative player tests.
“We were all feeling great,” Wright said in a Zoom call with reporters. “We kind of felt like we had made it. We practiced Sunday and everybody tested negative. We tested [Monday] before practice, but we were suited up because we had nine days in a row of negative tests, and we just kind of assumed everybody would be negative.
“We were dressed and ready for practice and everybody was sitting ready to start. But when we got the results, I could see this [news] was really crushing to them.”
Wright said the two players, who were not identified, were experiencing symptoms. He said he felt there was a chance that other players on the team could test positive in the coming days.
The coach said he tested positive for coronavirus on Dec. 26 and that his 10-day quarantine ended Monday. He likened the virus to “like a bad case of the flu” but added, “I’m good now.”
Villanova players quarantined on Dec. 24 and 25 away from the coaches as many welcomed their families to campus for the holidays. They checked into individual hotel rooms on the 26th and stayed there while Wright and another staff member who tested positive were in isolation.
The players left quarantine on Sunday to return to their apartments and practice, but had to go right back to individual hotel rooms and quarantine again Monday.
“I’m going to stress, our guys have done everything right,” Wright said. “This started with me. I don’t know how I got it. I have some ideas but I don’t want to [say].
“I’ve been diligent. I haven’t gone out. I wear a mask everywhere I go. I haven’t gone out to any functions. I haven’t gone anywhere. … But what’s sad is that this started with me and the players have to go through this.”
The first pause in team activities for Villanova came in September after a few members of the program tested positive. Since then, Wright has spoken of his concern for his players’ mental health as they remain to themselves in their own bubble so that they can compete in games.
Now it’s at least 10 more days before they can compete again. If no additional games are postponed after the ones announced Monday, the Wildcats would return to action Jan. 15 at Connecticut.
“Being in quarantine is one thing that’s really difficult on them because they’re by themselves,” Wright said. “They’re not even with each other. They’re in a hotel room by themselves. That’s very difficult. Being in isolation obviously is even worse for the people that are infected. So just having to tell them today, I could tell that this one was crushing to them.”