As Illinois State men's basketball’s first official practice began last week ahead of a Nov. 25 start date, a bigger issue introduced itself as a player tested positive for COVID-19. Along with the player, eight teammates must self-quarantine for 14 days after being in contact with the teammate.
Remaining players are exempt from quarantine after being placed in a 90-day window after contracting the virus in prior months.
Head coach Dan Muller had this to say about the situation.
"It's going to be a crazy year, and it's better that this happens now than when we are playing games. At least this kind of gives us a test run on how we are going to handle it," Muller said.
"When we come back, we will still have approximately three weeks to prepare for our first game."
The positive test timing could not be worse for the Redbirds, as they sit nearly a month away from their non-conference start date. Missing time to install plays and work on defensive game plans will impact the team, according to Muller.
With the unpredictability of this pandemic and the changing of schedules constantly occurring, Muller spoke of plans already being in place for when all players return to the court.
"The biggest change we have made [is] we've adjusted our schedule, back loaded our practices, we are going to take a lot more days off during this period. Once everybody is back, we will just try to do what we can to make up for it, but it's certainly going to impact us early in the season," Muller said.
The Redbirds have been casualties of scheduling changes since August, as they have had three separate occasions with positive test results among the team.
Losing much needed time to practice with a youth-filled roster provides a weakness for the closely approaching season, but Muller was adamant that no excuses will be made.
"We won't make excuses. We will get our guys ready to compete on the first day. It will be a slower start to the season for us. If we can stay healthy after this, we will get to where we can get to at some point, but it will probably make the start of the season much harder," Muller said.
As his players are anticipated to return three and a half weeks before the seasons start date, Muller still was confident he can have his team ready in the short span of time.
"We have talked about being able to adjust no matter what happens this year for the last month. No matter what, we have to be able to adjust and be prepared to do our jobs. I do want to make sure they[team] understand that I get it, this stinks," Muller said.
"Being able to handle the oddity of it all emotionally and also as a player going to the gym with the right mindset and trying to get better, I think we will get used to that over this time period."
The Redbirds are listed to compete in a multi-team event hosted by Nebraska around Nov. 25, but no schedules nor dates have been released surrounding the event.