NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – While the daily numbers seem to be improving, and basketball arenas all over the country are starting to hear the cheers of small crowds again, head coach Jeff Jones isn’t letting up one bit when it comes to COVID-19.
“We’ve gotten this far. We cannot let our guard down… Hell yeah, we’re worried,” said Jones. “Now is the time for us to be even more vigilant.”
His Old Dominion Monarchs head to Frisco, Texas for the Conference USA Men’s Basketball Tournament later this week.
Should any of his players or staff test positive for the virus in the days leading up tot their quarterfinal game on Thursday night, the team’s season- and their chance of playing in the NCAA Tournament- would likely come to an end.
The University of Northern Iowa and Holy Cross men’s basketball teams were both dealt that blow when positive tests forced them out of their respective conference tournaments, ending each of their seasons.
“We don’t want to be Holy Cross. We don’t want to be Northern Iowa and I feel so bad for those teams and those kids,” said Jones.
While COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in Texas, Conference USA will maintain strict protocols, including mask-wearing, social distancing, and limited fans in the arena. ODU will maintain it’s own “bubble.” The team will not allow any visitors to their hotel, will not interact with anyone else on site, and will travel with a smaller staff.
“We’ll avoid everyone we can possibly avoid, play the game on Thursday, and hopefully get a chance to play another game,” said Jones.
His program experienced a COVID-19 outbreak in the middle of the season, with several players and staff members testing positive. The severity of cases ranged from asymptomatic to mild symptoms, and the men’s team was forced to halt all team activities for two weeks before resuming.
With his players’ and staff’s health on the line, along with a trip to the “Big Dance,” Jones isn’t planning on taking any chances. “Everybody’s sacrificed so much to get to this point, and it would just be an absolute shame for something to happen here because someone let their guard down,” said Jones.