Many college athletic teams are returning to campus and getting ready to play, without having any idea whether fall and winter sports seasons will happen. The Boston University men’s basketball team is taking to the court for practice for a season still yet to be scheduled.
Despite a disappointing end to last season with the abrupt cancellation in March and current COVID-19 protocols in place, head coach Joe Jones said the team remains committed to improving.
Jones said he is grateful to be on the court with his squad regardless of the new circumstances.
“I don’t care we’re wearing freaking scuba diving gear,” Jones said. “I’m just happy that our guys are in the gym and they’re playing and we’re getting better.”
The Terriers had to adapt to practicing and staying fit under lockdown while they were away from BU, but Jones said he was pleased with how his team responded and improved their skills during the extended offseason.
“I’m really impressed with how guys have returned after such a long layoff away from us,” Jones said. “I think there are guys that really have worked hard and gotten better, so I see some marked improvement from a number of our guys.”
For junior forward Fletcher Tynen, it was hard to figure out how to work on his skills during the pandemic, but a little extra commitment helped him find new ways to practice.
“I drove around my hometown trying to find a park that had a rim that was still attached to the backboard,” Tynen said. “It took me like 30 minutes of driving to find one. Even that, the net was locked up, so every time I made it, I had to hit the ball out.”
Team bonding is also difficult this semester, with the squad no longer able to have meetings or socialize as a whole like they used to.
Tynen said it has been difficult to build relationships and bond with other members of the team, especially underclassmen.
“Normally we would hang out with the freshmen and the sophomores all the time, almost every day, and I think I’ve seen them twice this week,” Tynen said. “It’s awkward and it’s a weird scenario where you don’t see these guys as much as you think you should.”
The Terriers are coming off a season in which they won their first-ever Patriot League title and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. But the day after securing the league title and a spot in March Madness on March 11, the NCAA canceled the remainder of all collegiate athletics for the academic year, including the men’s basketball tournament.
This season, BU will be tasked with replacing forward Max Mahoney, who graduated after last season and led the Terriers in total points, rebounds and steals for the 2019-20 campaign. But junior guard Jonas Harper said Mahoney’s absence will allow the team to change up how they function on the court.
“[Mahoney] was everything for us last year,” Harper said. “I think this year we’re focusing on attacking the paint and … focusing on the mismatches.”
Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season, the Terriers are eager to return to competition and defend their title, Jones said.
Harper said he has confidence in his squad’s depth, as well as the Terriers’ ability to repeat as conference champions.
“We have a pretty deep roster. I think anybody on any given day can go off and have a great game,” Harper said. “We’re definitely focused on winning another championship. I think we have the people and talent to do that.”