In a video conference call with media on Monday, head coach Steve Pikiell addressed his desire to be at the “forefront of the change” in this country following the death of George Floyd, as well as his hope to return to campus with his team in late June and plan to navigate through the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. You can read his comments on Floyd and his plan for the program to set an example here.
As for basketball, Pikiell confirmed that June 22nd is the target date for the program’s return to campus. Pikiell said he and several Rutgers coaches were on a call with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy earlier on Monday to discuss the projected return and the weeks ahead. The return date is the start of the second summer session at Rutgers and the date that Murphy recently confirmed college sports workouts could resume.
“It’s voluntary. But to get them back would be good, and I think they’re ready to come back.”
There will be many new protocols in place, some of which are still being ironed out.
“We’re going to test them (for COVID-19) a lot. We’re still working on the details.” Pikiell stated. “I just know it’s going to be constant while they’re on campus just to keep everybody safe.”
Pikiell detailed some new procedures that will be in place, including “The way you come in the building, temperature checks when you come in, filling out forms on how you feel today, a lot of things, from the cleaning of the basketball to how many people can be in the weight room.”
Practices will not being taking place when the team returns to campus, but rather individual player workouts with coaches, as well as team meetings and work in the weight room.
Players have been undergoing workouts on their own during this lockdown and Pikiell said they are eager to return, stating “Every day, I get the text, ’When is the APC opening?’” He did express confidence that the players have done a good job of working out and staying in shape on their own.
Pikiell said the outdoor space at the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center (APC) will be a key space utilized. This includes the weight room, which opens to the outdoors. “We have a nice outdoor setup, so we can have meetings outdoors, too, which we’ve done in the past. Our facility I feel is more well-equipped to handle this pandemic than the RAC would have been.”
As for beyond the return, Pikiell said “I’m hoping July 1 that they can go back to eight hours of individual instruction (per week). I’m not worried about contact (restrictions) right now. That will come later. We can do things individually without contact. We can get shots up outside. We can get them back in the weight room.”
After the program’s first 20 win regular season in 37 years and an unprecedented three months since, the Rutgers men’s basketball team is set to resume its mission to make history later this month, but this time in more ways than one.