SDSU’s sports ‘pause’ could push back start of basketball practice

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San Diego State basketball coach Brian Dutcher was excited Wednesday morning. His players had been given permission to shoot alone in the JAM Center this week for the first time since the facility was closed in March, the latest step toward resuming full practice with the full team.

“I feel like we’re making progress,” Dutcher said. “Maybe if three weeks from now we’re still not working out the whole team, I might be getting a little more concerned.”

He might be getting a little more concerned.

A few hours later, the university announced it has suspended in-person classes for four weeks and all sports activities for two weeks after an increase in COVID-19 cases in the College Area.

The athletic department’s 500-odd athletes have been returning since June and working out in a socially-distanced manner, but it isn’t clear how many, if any, were among the 64 overall positive tests reported from the 7,997 students back on campus for fall semester.

The decision doesn’t adversely affect football and other fall sports, which the Mountain West already postponed until at least January. But it could derail preseason practice for basketball, especially if the NCAA opts to start the season as planned Nov. 10.

Division I basketball teams can start preseason practice 42 days before their first regular-season game, which this year would be Sept. 29. The problem for SDSU is that, after the two-week hiatus, athletes might have to start over with the various protocol steps and might not work up to full practices by the end of September.

The good news is the men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees reportedly will propose an opening date of Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, when the NCAA’s Div. I Council meets Sept. 16 to decide the fate of the season. That would push the start of preseason practice to mid-October and buy the Aztecs some more time.

The athletic department does not release test results, but the men’s basketball team is not believed to have any COVID-19 positives.

“We take health and safety seriously,” SDSU Athletic Director John David Wicker said in a statement. “With the number of cases in the area increasing, this is a good time for us to pause to ensure our health and safety protocols are working appropriately.

“We plan to resume practice in two weeks as we continue to prepare our student-athletes for competition in winter or spring. We will keep our student-athletes in San Diego and continue to provide them academic assistance, housing, food, nutrition and access to health care.”


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