Passion: UVA kids fight their way through COVID-19 shutdown

basketball covid-19

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I’m hearing from some college basketball fans how it looks like the games this year are glorified scrimmages, that it seems the players aren’t into it, that they’re just going through the motions.

That doesn’t consider that the kids have been on campus since August – conditioning, going through individual drills, practicing in small groups, then team settings, traveling in bubbles.

And then what happens when a team goes into a COVID-19 lockdown.

Do you know what happens when a team goes into a COVID-19 lockdown?

Let’s have UVA redshirt freshman Kadin Shedrick explain.

“We had a Zoom call probably every night during quarantine, and we watched some film. We would talk about what was going on, what the plan was. They even allowed us to come in, like one at a time, and we would have our own half court, just be isolated on that half court. Nobody else was around us, and get some shots up so we wouldn’t be terribly rusty. It was good, even though we were in quarantine, to have our own isolation half court, and that was good for us. I think we made the most of the situation. We did the best we could with what we had.”

That was 10 days for the UVA kids, who learned on Dec. 8 – the eve of a much-anticipated matchup with #4 Michigan State – that their program was being shut down because of COVID-19 issues.

They finally got back to regular routine – i.e. a full practice – on Saturday.

From the description that we got from junior Trey Murphy III, it was like coming back to school from summer vacation.

“I think that quarantine really, there is a little bit of hunger in us, and we’re also just like so eager to play. And then we came back on Saturday like it was really clicking, like, it was crazy that we were out for 10 days. In that first practice back, it was one of our better practices. I think we really just missed each other a lot, and we’re all just happy to play with each other again. We were really excited to play again.”

Glorified scrimmages.

The players aren’t into it.

Going through the motions.

“It was frustrating,” Murphy said. “At the time, my initial reaction was, Yes, I’m a little mad about it, but it’s something I can’t control. Things that you can’t control, you can have like a negative reaction to it. I just had to move on, because I just know we’re going to get our opportunity, and I’m looking forward to that on Saturday. It is a really big game, and me and my teammates are very excited to play Gonzaga.”

Gonzaga is the reward from coach Tony Bennett to his team for enduring those 10 days off, missing Michigan State and Villanova.

The Zooms, the individual shooting sessions, the meals alone.

You think you’re stir crazy?

“It felt good to go there today,” Shedrick said after Tuesday’s 76-40 win over William & Mary. “I don’t really remember the last time we played, so it really felt good to be out.”

The most recent game for UVA, for the record, had been back on Dec. 4 – 18 days earlier.

Oh, and one other thing – they don’t get paid to play basketball.

All of it – the quarantining, the bubble wrap around them – is literally fun and games.

Keep that in mind when you flip on the TV and might find yourself inclined to mutter something about how it doesn’t seem as good a product as it did this time last year.

The crowds aren’t there; the passion very much is.

Murphy attests to that.

“I feel like the main thing was just really being focused on our passion. You have a lot of passion while you’re playing. And you have to find a way.”

Story by Chris Graham


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