Even the best attempts at creating some normalcy can be waylaid these days.
For roughly three weeks, most of the Ohio State men’s basketball team has been on campus and slowly progressing toward resuming team activities during a nationwide coronavirus pandemic.
The return has been a measured one, featuring limited access to facilities, strict adherence to mask-wearing and even walking instructions via arrows taped onto hallways within Value City Arena. The steps are among many designed to keep the Buckeyes as safe as possible while preparing for a season they hope will begin as scheduled.
And despite the ominous undertones to Wednesday evening’s announcement that Ohio State is halting voluntary workouts for all seven teams currently on campus, it didn’t have much impact on what coach Chris Holtmann and his staff are planning for the coming weeks.
"I think the only way to look at it is to prepare as if the season is going to go on as planned, understanding there could be some changes," Holtmann said in an interview a few hours before the university’s announcement. "It’s a very fluid situation."
OSU players spent a week getting tested for COVID-19, getting acclimated to the new environment and being evaluated by the training staff before being allowed limited access to the practice gym, where only one ball and one player were allowed per basket.
Players can’t participate in individual skill workouts under coach supervision until July 20, giving them this time period to work out under the watch of strength and conditioning coach Quadrian Banks.
Players must wear masks inside the facility, have their temperature taken and fill out a questionnaire regarding any symptoms they might have experienced during the previous 24 hours. If they want to work out in the practice gym after lifting in groups of three or four, they are limited to no more than seven players at a time.
The locker room remains off limits, and players have to follow arrows taped to the floor instructing them to stick to one side of the hallway.
"All of those things have been an adjustment for all of us, but when I’ve been down there and those guys have not been working out and they’ve just been talking, I would say all of our guys have had a mask on," Holtmann said. "They’ve been really good about it."
The current pause in workouts is expected to last roughly a week, multiple sources have told The Dispatch.
Reached for comment following Wednesday’s announcement, Holtmann said, "I was advised by our medical team that the university was temporarily shutting down workouts for all of our fall athletes that are on campus, but I expect them to resume here before long."
Injured players including Musa Jallow (ankle), Justice Sueing (foot) and Seth Towns (knee) are progressing toward hopefully returning to full action this fall. No one among that group is there yet, but Holtmann said Jallow and Sueing are a little further along when it comes to running and jumping.
"What’s their exact time frame? I think it’s a little open-ended on all three," Holtmann said. "We’ll know more by the end of the summer."
Another unidentified player is dealing with a shoulder issue suffered while working out and playing during open gym sessions back home, Holtmann said.
The Buckeyes will remain on campus through Aug. 5, at which point they will be sent home until fall semester begins later that month. Graduate transfer Abel Porter will leave early, Holtmann said, because he and his wife are expecting a baby girl.
Meanwhile, conversations about racial injustice continue within the program. Guest speakers such as Clark Kellogg and Joshua Perry have addressed the team, players are being registered to vote and team bonding activities are limited but at a premium on a team with five new faces.
Holtmann remains optimistic about where everything is headed.
"I feel confident that we’re going to have a season, yet I understand that it’s out of our control in many ways," Holtmann said. "I think you have to prepare and plan as if it’s going to be a season that’s going to begin (with) practice in late September and exhibition games in late October and real games in early November. And if we need to adjust, we can adjust."