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‘We’re all super serious about this’: BYU basketball doing all it can to stay healthy as season is on the verge of tipping off

Since official practices started on Oct. 14, the team hasn’t had any positive COVID-19 cases, Pope said.

The BYU basketball team practices on Oct. 14, 2020
Courtesy BYU Athletics

With less than a week before BYU tips off the season, coach Mark Pope and his players are continuing to take as many precautions as possible to stay safe and preserve their schedule.

The Cougars are set to host Westminster in the season opener next Wednesday at 6 p.m. BYU has three games over the first four days of the 2020-21 campaign.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases are climbing in Utah and elsewhere. Some teams around the country aren’t practicing right now due to the number of positive cases and contact tracing protocols. Some college basketball games have already been canceled.

“We’re masked up like crazy,” Pope said Thursday. “We’re really hoping that we’ll be able to start (the season) on time. I expect we will. We’re doing everything we can to be able to play.”

Pope said coronavirus testing is taking place every other day and that the players wear masks most of the day, except when they’re on the court.

“In the training room and in the locker room, guys are trying to keep masks on as much as they can. … We’re testing every couple of days and we get those results back in a day,” Pope said. “We’re encouraging our guys to be incredibly nonsocial, which is so contrary to the way we normally flow. But we’re trying to encourage our guys to keep their team safe.”

Since official practices started on Oct. 14, the team hasn’t had any positive COVID-19 cases, Pope said.

“We did have a couple of things run through the team during the summer,” Pope said. “But since training camp, guys have been incredibly cautious. Thankfully, we’ve been really safe.”

Forward Kolby Lee was one of the Cougars who contracted the virus. That happened in early August, and as a result, he had to self-isolate.

His condition forced the postponement of his wedding to Kayla Belles, a member of the BYU women’s basketball team. They got married after he finished isolating in the middle of August.

Lee said he had a stuffy nose for two weeks as he dealt with the virus.

“The worst symptom was I had chills and a fever for an hour,” Lee added. “Then it went away. I never had a cough, never lost my taste. I was very fortunate.”

After experiencing the virus, Lee has more respect for the severity of it.

“When it ran through the whole team, I was like, ‘OK, this is the real deal,’” he said. “We don’t want any setbacks. We’re all masked up everywhere we go, unless we’re on the court. We’re all super serious about this.”

BYU was projected to be a single-digit seed in last March’s NCAA Tournament before it was canceled due to the pandemic, so the Cougars understand how a season can be derailed with little warning or due to issues out of their control.

“We always try to put it in the back of our minds but there’s still a little bit of fear of, hopefully our next game doesn’t get canceled. You are a little bit worried. We have to focus on the here and now,” Lee said.

“Pope tells us every day to focus on the now. We can’t control what happens in the future. We can’t control what happened last year. It was unfortunate. We all felt we could have made a run, but we can’t control that, so we focus on every day at time. When we do that, everything will take care of itself.”