HUNTINGTON — Marshall’s men’s basketball coach Dan D’Antoni couldn’t wait to get his team back on the court this week.
It was expected that the Thundering Herd would return to the court on Tuesday after getting COVID-19 testing results back on Monday afternoon.
However, after the results came back in on Monday morning, D’Antoni called his players together for a shooting practice in the afternoon to get the team re-acclimated to life in the gym.
For D’Antoni, there’s not a moment to spare.
“We have six weeks to prepare for games normally and four of those six were wiped out,” D’Antoni said. “The advantage we had by returning veteran players kind of got pushed back a little bit.”
Still, for the players, it was a welcome sight to be back in the Cam Henderson Center after the extended layoff.
How welcome was it?
Marshall point guard Jarrod West carried a basketball into the media room with him while he did interviews.
“Man, I haven’t held a ball in so long,” West said. “I’m just happy to have one in my hands. I’m going to hold on to it as long as I can.”
West was not the only player who shared that sentiment.
It’s been a myriad of emotions for the players as they went through their second COVID-related shutdown of the preseason.
The first was difficult because Marshall missed the final week of preseason workouts and the first week of practice.
However, it wasn’t terrible because things hadn’t gotten going at full steam yet.
For Marshall guard Taevion Kinsey, the latest stoppage was excruciating because the team had been in practice for two weeks and was building chemistry together. However, things get shut down again after safety protocols forced the team to quarantine due to contact tracing and a positive test within the program.
“I love basketball so much that taking time off and having a season coming, it can get to me and mess with my mind a little bit,” Kinsey said. “I just tried to relax and enjoy my time off — take it as a blessing and look at it in a positive way.”
Kinsey added that he tried to take care of his body in any way possible — stretching, meditating, anything — in an effort to keep him focused while waiting for the time to get back on the court.
For Monday’s first practice back, the team was split into two groups to go through a shooting practice.
The team will reconvene as a complete group Tuesday in an effort to start building up to next week’s scheduled season opener.
While there has been plenty of uncertainty for the team over the last few weeks, there was a bit of normalcy on Monday when Marshall’s athletic department announced the start times for the first two home games next week.
Marshall will host Coppin State in the opener at 6 p.m. on Nov. 25 before returning to the Henderson Center at 6 p.m. on Nov. 27 to take on Tennessee State.
In addition to those start times, Marshall outlined some details around game-day atmosphere for the Henderson Center.
As previously reported, Marshall will allow 1,300 fans for games at the Henderson Center this season, using a lottery format to select fans with 2019-20 season tickets and 2020 Big Green members being eligible for that lottery.
The game day atmosphere will take all precautions to ensure safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has worsened in recent weeks.
Marshall announced that one precaution taken will be the elimination of concession stands for the 2020-21 season. Food will not be available at games and it will not be allowed to be brought in from outside. Fans will be allowed to bring one unopened 20-ounce bottle of water with them to games.
“The reason for that is we don’t want overcrowding in the enclosed concourse area,” said Jeff O’Malley, Marshall’s Associate Director of Athletics and Chief of Staff. “That was a big concern that we just wanted to eliminate to mitigate the spread of the virus as much as we could.”
Game times for the remainder of the schedule will be announced as the information comes available, O’Malley said.