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Virginia’s Sam Hauser details life inside the NCAA Tournament bubble: Could be worse

sam hauser georgia tech
Sam Hauser had 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting to key Virginia’s 64-62 win over Georgia Tech in January. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

The biggest game, hopefully games, of the year are on the horizon, and Sam Hauser and his Virginia teammates spent the week getting ready for it in quarantine.

“We’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of individual shooting and conditioning sessions, but that’s pretty much it,” Hauser said, as the defending champs, under COVID-19 quarantine for a week, get ready for their first-round NCAA Tournament game with Ohio on Saturday night.

“Other than that, I mean, you know, you can go outside and dribble the ball a little bit, get some fresh air, because you know, quarantine is not not that fun. But we’re allowed to at least go and walk around, get some fresh air. So, just try to keep a basketball in hand as much as possible.”

Everybody else – literally, the other 67 teams – were able to get to Indianapolis starting Monday. Virginia won’t get to Indy until Friday, at which point the team will undergo another round of COVID-19 tests, and assuming they get good news during yet another quarantine on location, another ‘nother round of COVID-19 testing late Friday or in the wee hours of Saturday.

Then, maybe, a shootaround.

Then a game.

Could be worse.

“When we first heard the news that there was a positive it was, you didn’t really know how to feel. We didn’t know if our season was over, if we’re going to still have a chance to be able to play, and luckily enough, we’re going to have a chance to play, hopefully,” Hauser said, not wanting to jinx it, and then, watch as he tries to extract a positive out of the week in bubble wrap.

“You do get to rest up your body a little bit,” he said, “which I think is good, get your legs back underneath you. But um, yeah, I’m just really hopeful that we’ll be able to play this weekend.”

The week, in a nutshell: limited shooting and conditioning, some fresh air walks, dribbling a basketball – and zooms.

“Our team zooms over the last couple days, you know, we’ve tried to fill it with a lot of film and getting to know our opponent, so at least, you know, I hope our mental side is sharp,” Hauser said. “Physically, it’s going to be a little bit different. But I think at the end of the day, we’re just going to be grateful to be able to play. And once you step on the floor, I think, you know, I think guys would be ready to go.”

The team has kept up with each other using the technology of the day.

“I think just keeping in touch with each other, making sure everybody’s in good spirits, through text, FaceTime, Snapchat, whatever it is, video games, even. Just making sure everybody’s in high spirits as much as you can. That’s pretty much what we’ve been trying to do,” Hauser said.

To those of us on the outside, it seems like an odd way to get ready for a game, but for the student-athletes, they’ve been walking on these eggshells since the summer.

“Yeah, I think the whole year, there’s a lot of uncertainty. I mean, you didn’t even know if you’re going to be able to play a game until, like, you’re on the floor for warmups,” Hauser said. “No fans in the stands, you know, having to wear a mask when you come off the floor, social distancing, trying to stay out of grocery stores, restaurants, all that it’s, it’s been a lot different. You can’t really live a normal lifestyle. So, definitely remember this year forever, that’s for sure.”

Tony Bennett-coached teams aren’t good at feeling sorry for themselves. It’s not in the DNA to complain about having the ACC Tournament taken away, to have to sit in quarantine for days leading up to the NCAA Tournament, the pinnacle of a season that began with a return to Grounds in August, months of hard work, living in a bubble, coming down to two hours with basically no preparation.

“The first couple of days, you know, when we left the ACC Tournament, and then the day after that, it was, nobody knew what was going on,” Hauser said. “Like, we didn’t know if our season was done, if we’re going to have a chance. So, there was just, like, anxiety and a little bit of stress, I guess, from all that. But thankfully, we got some good news, that if we were able to test out this week, negative, we’d have a chance to play. So, I think everyone has been really optimistic and trying to try to take the quarantine as seriously as possible so we can have that chance.

“There’s just a lot of hope, and I think we have to keep that hope, but also try to have the mindset of like, we know we have a game to play, whether we know if we’re playing or not, we just got to have that mindset,” Hauser said. “I think if we can have that mindset, and do the things we’re supposed to do in quarantine, take the right actions, I think we’ll be alright. So I think it’s just, a lot of the mindset stuff right now is important, because we’re not able to do as much physically.”

Story by Chris Graham

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