HUNTINGTON — For Herd That guards Stevie Browning and Jon Elmore, never has a team sporting event felt so alone.
Herd That team members all arrived together Tuesday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio, after traveling up from Charleston during the morning.
Upon arrival, they went through a series of six stations in which they answered questions and underwent COVID-19 testing and an 18-to-24-hour isolation period as part of the safety protocols put forth by The Basketball Tournament organizers.
Such is life in team sports in the post-COVID-19 era.
“Oh man, it’s crazy,” Browning said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been locked in my room for 18 hours in my life. Maybe when I was a kid if I did something bad, but this is rough.”
While it is rough for the players, it is necessary to ensure the safety of all participants for TBT 2020, which is scheduled to get underway on Saturday in Columbus.
On Tuesday afternoon, game times for the first round were announced.
Herd That will take on Playing for Jimmy V at 2 p.m. on ESPN.
Elmore agreed with Browning that the situation was different, but he said the focus is on the task at hand, which is a $1 million prize.
“It’s worth it,” Elmore said. “I’m ready to get practicing. Hopefully we get the results back and we can start moving around a little bit.”
In all, Tuesday’s rounds of COVID-19 testing were the fifth such tests that Herd That has gone through over the course of the last two weeks.
Three of the tests have been mandated by TBT throughout the course of preparation, but the team went the extra length to do a pair of additional tests to ensure their safety throughout the process while undergoing a 10-day training camp.
Browning and Elmore each described the arrival as something out of a movie with six stations set up at check-in for players to fill out questionnaires and meet with safety personnel, which included Tuesday’s saliva test for COVID-19.
Upon completion of the process, players checked into the hotel and went straight to their rooms where they underwent a quarantine period that lasts until test results for the team return.
The isolation period was expected and outlined by TBT organizers, who also told players to bring video game systems and other means of entertainment to help pass the time.
The entertainment of choice for many of Herd That’s team members was a PlayStation 4 or XBox One, so that they could sharpen their skills on Call of Duty’s Warzone.
It was the saving grace for a Tuesday in which there wasn’t much going on except time moving slowly.
“I was staring out the window for fun there for a bit,” Elmore joked.
Elmore said the biggest difficulty on Tuesday involved the Wi-Fi in the hotel, which was busy with all the players from the 24 teams trying to log on to play video games.
It was also difficult for the team to figure out who was playing the game because Warzone features teams of four and there are seven or eight players who took their systems to Columbus.
“We may have to go in shifts,” Elmore said. “We are probably going to play 10 to 12 hours, though.”
For Elmore and Browning, the hope is the test results come back late Tuesday or early Wednesday so they can at least move around the hotel.
The hotel has four basketball courts for practice set up so everything is on-site for the duration of The Basketball Tournament, as Browning pointed out.
“If you step outside of the hotel for any reason, you cannot gain entry back into the tournament,” Browning said. “It’s that simple.”