“I want to stress our guys have done everything right, you know as I’ve said this started with me.”
That was the point Jay Wright was quick to emphasize, as he answered questions soon after it was announced Villanova would go back into a quarantine period of at least 10 days after two positive tests to players.
These positive tests, which were taken and processed before a scheduled practice this morning, come as the team was scheduled to fly out to DePaul later on Monday.
That game, as well as the game Friday against Marquette and next week’s matchup against Xavier, have been postponed.
“Having to tell them today, I could tell that this one is crushing to them,” Wright said. “Because, they had gone through 10 days of quarantine, nine days of negative testing. We were all feeling great. We kind of felt like we had made it. We practiced yesterday and everyone tested negative yesterday... We just kind of assumed everybody would be negative and we were dressed and ready for practice.”
Wright ruled out the possibility of a false positive result, sharing that the two unnamed players are showing symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, because of the timeline of when symptoms usually begin to show when someone has COVID, Wright is worried more players could test positive in the next couple days.
“Because they have symptoms we’re thinking there’s a chance we could get a couple other guys who would test positive tomorrow,” Wright said.
Wright said players quarantined from Dec. 24-25 and were not with one another. He noted that when players met with their families, they wore masks and abided by safety protocols for the on-campus visit.
They even put the players in individual hotel rooms for isolation from Dec. 26 to Jan. 2. Wright discovered that he originally tested positive on Dec. 26 and that a couple of staff members also found similar results. However, with players quarantining in hotel rooms, Wright says the coaches weren’t with players during this time.
Players were tested every day and not a single one of them came out positive during that time. They stayed quarantined in the hotel rooms except to do individual workouts one at a time in the gym to keep in shape. Players returned on campus on Sunday, where they had their first team practice since the Marquette game on Dec. 23.
However, after Monday’s news, they were sent back to the hotel to be individually quarantined once again.
“We’re confident it’s nothing that the players did wrong,” Wright said.
During this time, Wright was managing his team from afar, undergoing his own personal isolation. He was set to be cleared on Tuesday, returning in time for what would have been the DePaul game.
“I had ‘em all,” Wright said of what symptoms presented in his case. “I’m good now. It was like having a bad case of the flu. That’s what it seemed like to me”
Of course, it is becoming more and more clear everyday that the effects COVID has on someone do not always stop once the virus itself is gone, so to speak. Florida’s Keyontae Johnson is only one example of an athlete whose life and career might look different because he contracted COVID. While they can only act so safely once they decide to play, Villanova is taking all precautions short of not playing.
“The players are getting the best medical care, they’re being tested every single day,” Wright said. “They’re getting meals. If they do get the virus they’re monitored all day by our medical staff. They are in the safest position. We are doing the cardio workup before they’re allowed to come back. So we’re being as safe as we can with them, and I think we just have to make the best out of this season as we can.”
Wright maintains that this college basketball season “should” take place, but at the same time he says he is constantly checking in with his players and making clear that “at any time if you want to opt out, [the coaches] are in full support.” Wright plans on checking in especially during this extended quarantine period, but that his players are “adamant” that playing in this situation is preferable to “go sit at home doing nothing.”
As of now, the Jan. 15 game against UConn is still scheduled, but that date seems to be right on the border of the program’s quarantine window.