A few members of the Oklahoma State basketball team have been through a lot in their short time on campus.
Between multiple players getting kicked off the team and dealing with long losing streaks, along with signing on to a program that had a former coach investigated by the FBI, these players have been face-to-face with adversity before.
But now the enemy is invisible: COVID-19.
So add adapting to a virus, one that ended the 2019-20 NCAA basketball tournament and most high school seasons, and could impact next season, to a growing list of issues. Most would argue it’s tough to ask such perseverance from a young team, one that adds six newcomers for 2020-21, yet coach Mike Boynton said they’re up to the challenge.
“For the most part, I think they just want to play,” Boynton said in a teleconference Thursday. “Whatever the (NCAA) allows them to have, they’ll want more, but they’ll take what you can get. If that means you don’t come back until September and you don’t start the season until January, then for a little while they’ll just try to get better.”
While his players’ eagerness to get back on the court is a good sign for Boynton, he said he doesn’t know when this will happen or what it will look like.
“I don’t even know what the scenarios are in terms of what the season could look like,” Boynton said. “Those decisions will be made about 18 levels above me, obviously starting with (athletic directors) and presidents, chancellors at different schools and conference commissioners.
“Then the NCAA level and TV and all that stuff will determine what the actual season could look like.”
This week, some of the leaders in the United States’ COVID-19 task force offered some insight on when professional sports could return, which could paint a similar picture for college sports.
“There’s a way of doing that,” infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a recent interview. “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put them in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled and have them tested every week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.”
Despite all the variables and uncertainties with college basketball’s future right now, Boynton was certain about one thing: things are going to be different for a long time, although he said he’s not concerned.
“I don’t envision a scenario where things are normal like it was 19-20,” Boynton said. “Maybe for a while, maybe beyond this coming school year. What does that look like in three years? I don’t know. Maybe we’ll just adjust and there’ll be a new way to operate… I’m not a worrier, we're all trying to figure things out on the fly right now and trying to do our best at that.”